BEIRUT

Middle East

Protesting Egyptian police block Israel border crossing

In this Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 file photograph, the Rafah border terminal between Egypt and Gaza, and the only gateway for Gaza's people, is closed and guarded by Egyptian border guards in Rafah, Egypt. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa, File)

CAIRO: 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, security sources said.

Police have been blocking another border post, the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, since Friday to press the government of Egyptian President Mohamed 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.

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.

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 launch attacks on Egyptian targets and across the border into Israel.

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

 

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