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Egypt says Israel's border fence "not our concern"

CAIRO (Reuters) - Israel’s plans to build a security fence along its border with Egypt is of no concern to the Egyptian government as long as it remains on Israeli territory, Egypt’s foreign minister said on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans on Sunday to erect the barrier along part of the border and install advanced surveillance equipment to keep out illegal migrants and militants.

“This issue does not concern us at all,” Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt’s foreign minister said in a statement on Monday.

“Israel is building something on its own soil and there is no link between that security fence and our construction along the border with Gaza.”

Egypt is constructing an underground barrier to stem Palestinian arms smuggling into Gaza and has played down the scope of the dig on the 14-km (8-mile)-long frontier.

Hossam Zaki, the ministry’s spokesman said Israel had informed Egypt of its plan for the new fence within the past month. Security sources in North Sinai said late on Sunday that Israel had not informed the Egyptian authorities.

The Sinai border is a main transit route for usually unarmed African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. Egyptian police say the smugglers who ferry migrants to the border region sometimes fire on security forces.

Egyptian police have stepped up efforts to control the frontier following an increase in human trafficking. At least 17 migrants have been killed by Egyptian police since May.

Asked whether Egypt would be increasing the number of its own border guards to improve security, Zaki said: “No decision has been taken on it yet.”

The border between Egypt and Israel stretches some 255 km (160 miles) beginning at the international border post 8 at the south of the Rafah border to post 91 at Taba, making it difficult for security patrols to fully secure.

Reporting by Marwa Awad, Abdel Moneim Mabrouk and Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Marwa Awad