Arab protests against Egypt's Gaza border wall spread
Dozens rally outside Egyptian embassies in Jordan, Lebanon against construction of underground wall along Gaza border aimed at curbing Palestinian smuggling. Clerics say it violates Islamic law
Roee Nahmias Published: 01.04.10, 10:38 / Israel News
Protests against an underground wall Egypt is building along its border with the Gaza Strip to curb Palestinian arms smuggling are spreading throughout the Muslim world.
Some 150 people gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in Amman, Jordan on Sunday and burned photos of President Hosni Mubarak. The photos depict Mubarak with a Star of David stamped on his forehead.
The rally was organized by Jordanian labor unions and supporters of the opposition.
In Lebanon, members of the Jamaa al-Islamiya movement demonstrated outside the Egyptian embassy. A number of clerics who took part in the rally said the wall being constructed by Egypt violates Islamic law.
Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported that a number of prominent and radical Muslim clerics have issued edicts against the wall. According to the newspaper, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, head of the Iman University in Yemen, and Egyptian scholar and Islamist preacher Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have also voiced their objection to the wall, as have other Egyptian and Saudi religious leaders.
However, Cairo's Al-Azhar University, a major center of Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning, has officially backed the government's decision to build a wall along the border with Gaza. On Thursday 25 of the institute's senior administrators issued a statement backing the "state's right to build along its walls facilities and obstacles that will enhance is security."
Gazans hope pressure from the Muslim world will force Egypt to halt construction.
Cairo has played down the scope of the dig on the 14-km (8-mile)-long frontier but Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers condemn it as a "wall of death" that could seal an Israeli-led blockade by smothering smuggler tunnels from the Egyptian Sinai.
"The wall definitely has the potential to make things difficult, though it (smuggling) won't stop hermetically," an Israeli military officer briefed on Gaza intelligence said.
"There has certainly been an effect already. It's driving Hamas crazy."
Israel has long lobbied Egypt to tackle the cross-border smuggling, which supplies Palestinians with both munitions and basic commercial goods lacking in Gaza.
Asked when the Egyptian wall might be finished, the officer, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said: "If they work 24/7, it will still take a protracted period -- months."
Egyptian officials have said steel tubes were being placed at several points along the frontier to form a barrier, but have not elaborated on its purpose. Unlike Israel, Egypt maintains relations with Hamas and has an Islamist opposition movement.
Citing an unnamed Egyptian intelligence source, Israel's biggest newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said the wall would run as deep as 30 meters (yards) and would be rigged with sensors and pressurized hoses to flood tunnels with seawater.
Tunnel-builders say some 3,000 of the underground passages were operational before Israel launched a three-week Gaza offensive a year ago, but only 150 were still functional following the conflict and subsequent Israeli air raids.
The Israeli officer said Hamas, using the tunnels, had replenished its rocket and small-arms arsenal since the war.
Reuters contributed to the report
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