Hamas has denied it has declared the border area between Egypt and the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone”, Hamas’ Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Ghazi Hammad, told Daily News Egypt. Rumours had initially surfaced after state-run news agency Al-Ahram said it was announced in the early hours of Monday morning.
Hammad confirmed, however, that Hamas has increased their presence along the border to provide additional security in the area. “We have given more orders, established more control and are exerting more discipline,” Hammad said. “We increased the number of troops along the border and the patrols but there is no military zone.”
The heightened security comes after the Rafah Border Crossing was closed for a fourth day by security forces after seven security personnel were taken hostage in Sinai by unknown kidnappers.
Al-Ahram reported that tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt were already closed for the smuggling of people last Thursday and are now also closed for the smuggling of goods.
Hamas leader Salah Bardawil denied on Sunday any involvement in the kidnapping, adding that Israel is the only party benefiting from the situation.
Hammad stressed no Hamas members have used the tunnels to cross into Egypt and that Hamas does not involve themselves with the domestic affairs of the country.
Bardawil also said on Sunday evening that Egypt did not accuse Hamas of staging the kidnapping, blaming instead “the media” for always trying to blame the group for Egypt’s problems.
The Hamas leader expressed regret that the Gaza Strip must pay the price for internal issues in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, calling on Egypt to work towards reopening the crossing “to help the sick and stranded at the border”.
As the Egyptian army prepares to launch an offensive in Sinai called Operation Iron Fist, Bardawil said he is confident the army will “end the current dilemma”.