(AFP) – Feb 7, 2008
CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt said on Thursday it would no longer tolerate Palestinians infiltrating the country from the Gaza Strip, and threatened to break the legs of anyone crossing the Rafah border illegally.
"Anyone who breaches the border will have their legs broken," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency on public television overnight.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the impoverished Gaza Strip, subjected to a punishing Israeli blockade, crossed freely into Egypt after Islamist militants from Hamas blew apart border barriers late last month.
Abul Gheit said Egypt had allowed the Palestinians to flood across the border for humanitarian reasons only.
He blamed Israel for the situation in Gaza, accusing the Jewish state of imposing collective punishment on the territory, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, in response to rocket attacks by militants.
Abul Gheit also reproached Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, describing the standoff as a "laughable caricature."
The minister said some rockets misfire and hit the Gaza Strip itself, wounding Palestinians and merely providing Israel with a pretext to attack.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum, responding to the remarks, said that "rather than criticise the resistance one should provide aid to the resistance and to the Palestinian people, because it defends the entire Islamic nation."
Egyptian and Hamas forces, which seized armed control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, resealed the Rafah border last week.
MENA also quoted Egypt's Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi as saying that no one was allowed to violate national security and that Egypt has a military arsenal "that conforms with the most modern technology in the world."
Egypt is the second largest recipient of United States military aid after Israel.
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