Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Border guard killed by smugglers near Gaza border

August 4, 2009 | 11:42 am


An Egyptian border guard was killed and another wounded during a shootout Monday with smugglers in the city of Arish near Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. The region has become increasingly hostile as human trafficking networks attempt to smuggle African migrants across the Sinai through Gaza and eventually into Israel.   

Southern Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, as well as Ethiopia provide the bulk of immigrants trying to sneak into the Jewish state for jobs and better living conditions. Thirty people, most of them unarmed migrants, reportedly were killed last year and seven others have died this year attempting to cross a desert border strung with barbed wire and honeycombed with tunnels.

Authorities previously have blamed the Sinai Bedouin tribes for supporting and increasing illegal immigration. Such claims created tensions between police and Bedouins, who in November abducted a group of security officers after four tribesmen were killed by police in the same month. Egypt and Israel have intensified security along the borders as Bedouins and other gangs smuggle drugs and weapons in Gaza.

 In April, Egyptian prosecutors accused 49 men of plotting terrorist attacks against foreign tourists in the country, as well as planning a coup against the current regime with the aid and support of Lebanon's Hezbollah. The case's report alleged that some of the defendants were smuggled into Egypt through  Gaza.

Egypt closed its crossing point with the Hamas-ruled Gaza after the Islamic movement took full control of the coastal strip in 2007. The entry point is only opened for three days a month to transfer medical and humanitarian aid to the under-siege city.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Credit: Agence France Presse