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Egypt begins building concrete wall along Gaza border

The concrete wall will include an underground structure designed to stop smuggling tunnels. [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 February, 2020

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Dozens of workers aided by cranes could be seen erecting the structure, which will stretch from Gaza's south-eastern tip to the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Egypt has begun building a concrete wall along its border with Gaza, officials said on Wednesday, adding that the works included an underground structure designed to stop smuggling tunnels.

Dozens of workers aided by cranes could be seen erecting the structure, which will stretch from Gaza's south-eastern tip to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only gateway out of Gaza that does not lead into Israel. 

The wall is being built along the lines of an old, lower barrier that includes an underground structure designed to curb smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

Read more: Explainer: Life in Gaza under Israel's blockade

Egypt's military declined to comment on the new construction but a Hamas security source told AFP that the goal was "to complete (the wall) as quickly as possible." 

"The important thing for us is to control the border and prevent any illegal activity there", including any cross-border trafficking, the source said.  

A security delegation from Egypt led by General Ahmed Abdel Khalek, who heads Palestinian affairs at Egypt's intelligence agency, was in Gaza last week seeking to restore calm between Hamas and Israel. 

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Egypt, long a mediator between the two sides, and key Gaza donor Qatar strongly pushed for de-escalation last year.  

A truce was quietly agreed but it was not endorsed by Islamic Jihad, another major armed group in Gaza that Israel says is backed by Iran. 

Israel's military said on Wednesday that it had "identified a sniper squad of the Islamic Jihad terror organisation" firing on troops from Khan Younis in Gaza.

It said no troops were injured but Israeli forces returned fire and "a hit was identified".

Officials in Gaza said an Islamic Jihad fighter was slightly injured. 

The Gaza Strip has been under a crippling land, air and sea blockade since 2007, severely restricting the movement of goods and people in and out of the territory.

Read more: Egypt is building a concrete wall around Sharm el-Sheikh

Around half of the population is out of work, two thirds of them young people, according to the World Bank. More than two thirds of the population depends on humanitarian aid.

One Gazan out of two lives below the internationally-recognised poverty line.

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