Arab News (Analysis)
January 8, 2010 - 1:00am§ion=0&article=130886&d=8&m=1&y=2010

RIYADH: The Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia has dismissed allegations that a steel underground wall being built by his country on its border with the Gaza Strip is aimed at starving local Palestinian people or forcing them to support any resumption of peace talks with Israel.

Mahmoud Ouf issued the denial at the launch of the new Egyptian Cultural Center in Riyadh on Wednesday night. “Forced starvation is not possible because 95 percent of Gaza’s food, medicine and electricity do not come through these tunnels, but via crossing points along the border with Israel,” he said.

Egypt has claimed that the wall was being built to block underground tunnels and protect the country’s border.

“The wall will put an end to the illegal trade taking place through these tunnels, in which Palestinians and Egyptians are both involved,” the ambassador said, adding goods from Egypt were being smuggled and sold at twice their value for the benefit of only a few people, including certain Palestinian factions.

“It will also put an end to the smuggling of arms and drugs between Gaza and Egypt.”

He revealed that Hezbollah members accused of plotting terrorist acts in Egypt, who were also using the tunnels to smuggle themselves into the country, were the most important factor behind the construction of the wall. He said the wall would seal off almost 1,000 tunnels and prevent Palestinians from opening anymore.

Ambassador Ouf stressed that Egypt was not abandoning the Palestinians by building the wall nor was the country making a stand against Hamas in favor of President Mahmoud Abbas. He said his country was simply supporting the Palestinian people who elected Abbas. The ambassador urged the Arab and Muslim world to use logic rather than passion when assessing the wall and understand that Egypt, in its capacity as a sovereign state, has the right to construct whatever facility it needs to maintain its security.


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