Palestinians breach Egypt border fence
RAFAH, Egypt (AP) - Palestinians breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds crossed, prompting clashes with Egyptian security that left one border guard dead, said an Egyptian security official.
Palestinian gunmen and border guards traded fire and an Egyptian major was shot twice in the stomach and killed, said the security official.
Palestinians breached the border in four places along its nine mile (14 kilometers) length, allowing hundreds of residents to pour into Egypt. Gunmen also briefly took control of several Egyptian checkpoints, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The breach came shortly after Israeli aircraft struck the smuggling tunnels running underneath the border, targeting one of the lifelines of the territory’s Hamas rulers.
At least 300 Egyptian border guards have been rushed to the area to reseal the border, the Egyptian official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
About four hours later, an Egyptian security official in Cairo said most of the breaches were again under Egyptian control. The official said most of those who crossed into Egypt have returned to Gaza and security officers were combing the area for remaining infiltrators.
The brief episode was reminiscent of an earlier breach this year, when angry Gazans blew holes in the border fence and hundreds of thousands poured into Egypt.
The January breach lasted for a few days as Gazans stocked up on food stuffs and consumer soods. Egyptian security have since worked on fortifying their presence alcng the volatile border.
On Sunday, a witness on the Gaza side of the border, Fida Kishta, said residents detonated a land mine along the border and commandeered a bulldozer to create more breaches.
"There was a loud bang and then we saw the smoke, and then people began heading toward Egypt, we counted them in the hundreds. Everyone in the area started crossing through," she said.
An official on the Egyptian side said the wall between Gaza and Egypt at the Barahmeh neighborhood was brought down during the airstrike and the subsequent large explosion from an underground fuel pipe.
He later said Palestinians and Egyptian security clashed heavily along the border. Tear gas was also used extensively by the Egyptian security, the0official said, to keep people away from the breaches, keeping many Rafah residents indoors.
The official added that Egyptian security had pulled back ahead of the airstrikes.
Palestinians reported that two people were killed and 18 wounded in the air strikes and another five were wounded in the ensuing exchange of gunfire with Egyptian security.
Dr. Abdel Qader Higazi, a representative of the Egyptian Doctor’s Syndicate in Rafah said Egyptian authorities closed the border crossing after allowing several shipments of medical supplies into Gaza.
Smugglers have dug dozens of tunnels in recent years. Weapons and c¯mmercial goods are brought in through the passageways.
Gaza has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade since a violent Hamas takeover in June 2007. The tunnels have helped Hamas stay in power by relieving shortages