Hamas deploys forces to Gaza-Egypt border
Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has dispatched forces to the Gaza Strip’s frontier with Egypt in a confidence-building measure aimed at boosting security in the border area, officials say.
Hamas General Hussain Abu Aadrah said on Thursday that four battalions were deployed along the 13-kilometer border “at Egypt’s request.”
The military official added that the measure was aimed at strengthening “positive neighborly relations.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also said the deployment came as part of an agreement reached with Egyptian officials last month.
“This emphasizes the Palestinian stand to tighten security on the border and nothing that harms Egypt will come out of Gaza,” he added.
An Egyptian security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said that the deployment was part of an agreement, under which Hamas stops building underground tunnels connecting the Israeli-besieged territory to Egypt, and Cairo, in return, reopens the Rafah border crossing.
Hamas-Egypt ties have been tense in recent years as Cairo accuses the Palestinian resistance group of backing the militants in Sinai Peninsula, an allegation strongly rejected by Hamas.
The underground tunnels are used by residents of Gaza to transfer essential supplies, including food and fuel, into the Israeli-blockaded coastal sliver.
Israeli and the Egyptian army forces have, however, launched a campaign to destroy the tunnels.
Dozens of people, mostly Palestinians, have lost their lives during the destruction process, which has intensified since Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was toppled in a July 2013 military coup.
The Rafah border crossing, which is Gazans’ only way of access to the outside world free from Israel’s control, has been also shut by Egypt, further complicating the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave.
Over the past year, Cairo has also demolished thousands of homes on the Egyptian side of Rafah to create a buffer zone near Gaza.