Amid protests, Egypt defends right to build Gaza wall
Regional critics accuse Egypt of aiding in blockade of Gaza by building wall to curb smuggling.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit on Wednesday defended Egypt's right to secure its border in the government daily al-Akhbar, while the government gave the green light for a limited protest of the reinforcement.
"What Egypt is doing is placing structures on its territory related to Egyptian defense," the foreign minister said.
Egypt's upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, likewise issued a document endorsing the government's security measures in northern Sinai and along the border, the government-owned daily al-Gomhuriya reported Wednesday.
In recent weeks photos purportedly showing a reinforced steel wall being built underground along the Egyptian-Gazan border have revived domestic and regional criticism of Egypt's role in maintaining the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Activists from around the world this week gathered in Cairo in the hopes of marching to the Gaza border to protest its closure.
The Egyptian government initially banned the protest march. But faced with the rising criticism, the government on Tuesday told organizers of the Gaza Freedom March that 100 of the activists could march to the border.
Egypt has repeatedly defended increased security at the border as necessary for maintaining its sovereignty and national security. In January 2008, during Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, thousands of Gazans breached the border, pouring into the Egyptian side of the divided town of Rafah to buy food and other goods.
Egypt has long been under international pressure, particularly from Israel and the United States, to stop the smuggling of basic commodities, contraband, and weapons through tunnels under the border.
Israel and Egypt closed the Gaza Strip's borders after Hamas took control of the territory in 2006.