Ma'an News Agency
January 13, 2010 - 1:00am

Bethlehem – Ma’an – The US administration in Washington announced on Tuesday its support for the construction of an underground steel wall on the Egyptian borders with Gaza, to prevent the smuggling of weapons.

Spokesman for the US Foreign Ministry Gordon Duguid said "We have seen that Egypt is carrying out activities which will help stop weapons smuggling into Gaza. We believe that weapons smuggling should stop, and that measures taken to stop that weapons smuggling should be – could be carried out."

A substantial amount of humanitarian aid is transferred through the smuggling tunnels and Duguid noted that "We also support greater access for humanitarian supplies to get into Gaza. There are established channels for that, and those established channels should not be hindered by Hamas or any party in Gaza."

The spokesman reiterated that the US wishes to see Hamas "stop using the border crossings as methods of smuggling weapons ... but at the same time look for ways that we can improve the lives of ordinary Gazans through the supply of humanitarian aid.

Political rift and the peace process

While the US has declared its support for the wall's construction, outrage has been voiced within Egypt's parliament and across the world. However, the spokesman stressed that the US will continue to work with Egypt "as one of the parties that has much influence in the region and has been working to try and get parties back to the negotiation table. That is our concern right now."

Egypt's steel wall

In December, the Egyptian government declared that it would begin construction of a massive metal barrier along the Egypt-Gaza border to stop the smuggling of weapons. The tunnels, however, often provide a lifeline for Palestinians living under an Israeli-led blockade.

Egyptian authorities regularly report the thwarting of smuggling operations, which have included the transfer of bottled water, cigarettes and even fuel pumped from warehouses along the border.

Shortly following the start of construction, government workers came under fire from Palestinian gunmen, north of the Rafah border crossing.

The gunfire damaged some construction equipment but causing no injuries.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017