Protesting Egyptian police block Israel border crossing

CAIRO Sun May 19, 2013 3:17pm EDT

A member of Hamas security forces stands guard in front of the closed gate of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A member of Hamas security forces stands guard in front of the closed gate of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip May 17, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police enraged by the kidnapping of seven of their colleagues by Islamist gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula blocked a commercial border crossing with Israel on Sunday to pressure the Cairo government to help free the men, security sources said.

A video posted online on Sunday showed seven blindfolded men, who said they were the hostages, begging President Mohamed Mursi to free political detainees in Sinai in exchange for their own release.

Mursi said "all options are open" to free the hostages. "We will not succumb to any blackmail," he wrote on Twitter.

Gunmen demanding the release of jailed Islamist militants seized the policemen and soldiers on the road between the Sinai towns of el-Arish and Rafah on Thursday.

The video could not be independently verified, but state newspaper Al-Ahram said security services were looking into the authenticity of the video.

Police have been blocking another border post, the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, since Friday to press Mursi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, to help free the seven.

Dozens of police expanded the protest on Sunday by blocking the al-Awja border crossing 40 km (25 miles) south of Rafah, used by trucks that carry goods between Egypt and Israel, the two security sources said.

"Truck traffic has totally stopped," one said.

Ofer Lefler, spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority, which also controls Israel's land crossings, confirmed traffic had stopped in both directions because of the police action at al-Awja, known in Israel as the Nitzana crossing.

He said goods in and out of the Gaza Strip accounted for the vast majority of traffic through the gateway.

Hardline Islamist groups in North Sinai have exploited the erosion of state authority since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 to attack targets in Egypt and Israel.

Presidential spokesman Omar Amer told Egyptian state television that no talks were taking place with the kidnappers and that it would be unacceptable to negotiate with criminals.

The army shifted several units of troops to North Sinai "in preparation for taking part in a large-scale military operation to release the abducted soldiers if negotiations came to failure," the State Information Service said in a statement in English on Sunday.

(Reporting by Yousri Mohamed in Ismailia, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, and Ali Abdelaty and Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz and Maggie Fick; Editing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Comments (3)
Doc62 wrote:
TO all Hamas sympathizers: Think of the folly of your words as these lowlife terrorists slaughter Americans, Israelis, Christians and Muslims alike. Nothing like wholesale massacre, eh? Even the muslim brotherhood can’t control it. Mursi will let these Egyptians die and his police have a right to complain. Maybe NOW he will shut down the Rafi crossing(Mubarek tried) and work with the IDF in a bipartisan nature to promote the safety of all people in the middle east. Sadly, tons of weapons and missles have already slid under the border.

May 19, 2013 9:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
The only way to prevent kidnapping is to make the price for doing so sufficiently high so that kidnappers will think carefully about perpetrating such cowardly acts.

In this instance, hopefully Egypt will have learned something from Israel’s very costly, past mistakes.

When an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and held incommunicado for more than five years in Gaza, Israel never once “took off the gloves”, to get the soldier released.

And so the poor soldier languished for five years denied even the most basic humanitarian right to be visited even one time by the International Red Cross.

In the end, Israel finally agreed to release more than one thousand cold blooded, convicted murderers, from its prisons in order to get this one single soldier released and returned to his family.

That decision tore Israel apart at the time, especially the families these murderers had emotionally destroyed by robbing parents of the chance to see their murdered children grow up.

At the time I recommended that all Israel had to do was turn off the electricity to Gaza, which Israel supplies, and the soldier would have been released faster than a speeding bullet.

This time it is Egyptians in uniform who have been kidnapped by gunmen.

But apparently the Egyptians, at least its policemen, may have learned something from Israel’s incredible five year failure to rescue one of its own, not to mention the astronomical price Israel paid in the end to get the man back.

Egypt’s solution: Lock the Gates at the Border crossing and hopefully in the next weeks take much more drastic measures, to make the gunmen release the kidnapped Egyptians.

Of course the “politically correct” both inside and outside Gaza, will cry that such measures represent “collective punishment” which is precisely why Israel never turned off the electricity supply to Gaza to force the release of their own kidnapped Israeli soldier.

But unfortunately, history has proven over and over again, as in Chamberlain’s capitulation to Hitler’s outrageous early demands, that lack of resolve is always interpreted as weakness and sometimes the best tactic in the long run, and least harmful and least hurtful to the majority, is to employ swift, decisive modes of action that speak louder than any words.

Should Egypt make the same mistake that Israel made in the case of Gilad Shalit, the seven kidnapped Egyptian soldiers could end up languishing in some hole in Gaza for years whilst their families are forced to suffer in silence.

If Egypt is wise, they will hit back fast and hard and make certain the message gets through, loud and clear: “You kidnap an Egyptian and you will see so much pain visited on you that you will never make that same mistake again”.

This will be a learning curve for Egypt. For the sake of these seven kidnapped Egyptians and their families I hope they will profit by the mistakes of others in dealing with such kidnapping situations.

May 19, 2013 4:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
IslamBlows wrote:
Arab “spring” becomes a summer hotter than the flames of hell for these fools who think “democracy” is just an excuse to terminate anyone who doesn’t share your faith.

Here we see “jihad” against other muslims for a change.

You’re doing a fine job! Keep it up!

May 19, 2013 4:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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