Egypt deploys hundreds of policemen on Gaza border

RAFAH, Egypt Fri Jun 6, 2008 11:04am EDT

Palestinians cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip May 11, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Palestinians cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip May 11, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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RAFAH, Egypt (Reuters) - Egypt deployed hundreds of riot police along the border with the Gaza Strip on Friday, fearing hundreds of Palestinian protestors may try to storm the Rafah crossing, security officials said.

One official said 500 policemen as well as scores of border guards were deployed at Rafah border crossing and along a concrete wall separating Sinai and the coastal strip.

"Hundreds of Palestinians are starting to gather in front of the main gate of the crossing on the Palestinian side demanding it to be opened," the official told Reuters on a customary condition of anonymity.

Another security official put the number of policemen at around 1,000, along with 500 border guards.

The Rafah crossing is the Gazans' main point of contact with the outside world because few of them are allowed through the passenger terminal at the Erez crossing with Israel.

All of Gaza's crossings have largely been shut since the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal strip last June when its fighters routed the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

Palestinian militants blew holes in the border wall with Egypt in January, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to flock into Sinai to stock up on food and fuel supplies.

Egypt has been trying without much success to broker a truce between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Hamas has repeatedly urged Cairo to open the Rafah crossing unilaterally if the truce talks broke down.

(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia and Mohamed Youssef in Rafah; Writing by Alaa Shahine; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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