• December 30, 2009

Egypt’s “Metal Wall” Punishes Hamas

Egypt’s “Metal Wall” Punishes Hamas

 Cairo: The mounting criticism of the Egyptian Government by human rights organizations continued as Egypt began to construct a metal wall along its borders with Gaza Strip and prevented the passage of the Viva Palestina convoy to the Strip. Some human rights activists and political experts agree that the wall contributes to widening the already suffocating siege on the Palestinians, while others consider it as a punitive step by the Egyptian government for Hamas’s refusal to sign the agreement on Palestinian reconciliation and spoil the Egyptian efforts in a prisoner swap deal with Israel.

Dr. Emad Gad, an expert on Israeli affairs at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that the building of the wall is designed to put an end to the smuggling of weapons, food and medical supplies through tunnels. He attributed Egypt’s intention to build the metal wall along its borders with Gaza to Hamas’s refusal to sign the agreement on Palestinian reconciliation, with the group instead welcoming the German broker in the prisoner swap deal with Israel. He also noted that Hamas depends on the border tunnels to smuggle money and weapons, in addition to the revenue it receives from operating the tunnels.

Although Dr. Gad considered the construction of the wall as a severe punishment by the Egyptian government on Hamas, which insists tunnels are needed to meet needs of its approximately two million citizens, he said that the fundamental solution to reduce the impact of the wall is the eventual signing of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. This would lead, according to Gad, to Egypt opening Rafah crossing and  facilitating the entry and exit of Palestinians to the Strip.

Bahey El Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies indicated that even with the reasonable security concerns of Egypt, they do not justify a more restrictive blockade on the Palestinian people in Gaza, stressing that the biggest mistake is differentiating between the Palestinian people in Gaza and Hamas and the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Fatah movement. He stressing the importance of Egypt not acting as a barrier to the solidarity movement in support of the besieged Palestinian people.

Hassan called on both Fatah and Hamas to reach an agreement on national reconciliation rather than continue the conflict, which indirectly serves Israel and damages the reputation of the Palestinian cause, adding that the issue of construction of the wall is an indication that the Palestinian division will continue for a long time without achieving reconciliation between the two parties.

Khaled Ali, Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, said that the construction of the separation wall is a siege on Gaza and has nothing to do with Egypt-Gaza border security, saying that Palestinian civilians are not a threat to Egypt. Instead it is an international plan, which includes both Egypt and Israel, to besiege the Strip, saying that the construction of the barrier violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gives the right of peoples to self-determination and freedom of movement. He added, “Why did Egypt not build a wall around Taba, for example, if it really wants to secure its borders instead of besieging the people of Gaza?”

In the same context, the 6th of April movement on the 30 of December will protest under the slogan of “No to the metal wall” in a show of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza Strip and with the Viva Palestina convoy, headed by the British MP George Galloway, which was denied entry to Gaza through Rafah by the Egyptian authorities.