08 February 2010

Egypt Steps Up Maritime Security

CAIRO — Egypt is stepping up security on its maritime frontier with Gaza in a bid to prevent smuggling by sea, as work continues on an underground barrier along the land border, a security official said Sunday.

Authorities have begun construction of a port for boats of Egypt's security forces to "prevent all future attempts to smuggle Palestinian contraband through the maritime border," the official said.

"Egypt has set up a full plan to guarantee security on its maritime and terrestrial border with Gaza. There is construction work currently taking place ... and more is being studied," he said.

Witnesses told AFP that vehicles were seen transporting large blocks of stone to the beach in January before work started last week.

Egyptian construction work is also taking place along the land border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, in a bid to end smuggling through a network of underground tunnels, the official said.

Hamas has protested against the construction as the enclave is under a tight Israeli blockade.

The tunnels are mainly used for food, fuel and household appliances, but Hamas also uses them to import weapons into the territory.

Egypt began work on the controversial barrier after pressure from Israel and the United States to prevent arms from entering Gaza.

President Hosni Mubarak has defended the barrier as a matter of "national security" and "sovereignty." Source