Hamas beefs up Egypt border force to ease tensions

Hamas began deploying additional forces on the Gaza border with Egypt on Thursday, Gaza's Interior Ministry said, in an apparent effort to ease Cairo’s concerns about security.

“National security forces started today to increase the number of its troops and double the security bases along all the southern border with Egypt to be able to control the border better,” ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bazm told AFP.

He said they had established three new bases immediately. “This is a message that we are concerned with border security and stability,” Bazm said, adding nobody would be allowed “to touch the security of Egypt.”

Security forces were seen setting up about 10 temporary buildings along the border. Bulldozers flattened the land near the frontier in apparent preparation for more temporary structures.

A Palestinian security officer called the measures “important new security arrangements to reassure the brothers in Egypt the border is secure.”

A delegation headed by Hamas political bureau member Mousa Abu Marzook held talks in Egypt last month aimed at normalizing relations that have been strained since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Morsi had good relations with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip, but President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Cairo regularly accuses Hamas of supporting attacks in Egypt and has largely kept its border with Gaza closed since 2013.

It has also destroyed hundreds of Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle commercial goods, cash, people and, allegedly, weapons.

The Hamas interior ministry said 2015 was the worst year for the Rafah border crossing in recent years, saying it was open for just 21 days in total.

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