Egypt Sends Troops To Gaza Border

The wall separating Gaza from Egypt that is known as the Philadelphia Route is seen from the former Jewish settlement of Rafiah Yam, in the southern Gaza Strip, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. Israeli troops demolished the last military installations in the Gaza Strip on Friday in final preparations to complete the pullout by Tuesday after 38 years of occupation. (AP Photo/Jim Hollander, Pool)
AP
Egypt deployed the first batch of 750 border troops along its desert frontier with the Gaza Strip on Saturday in line with Israel's withdrawal from the volatile Palestinian area, an Egyptian official said.

Mohammed Youssef, an official with the Egyptian State Information Service based in the Egyptian border city of Rafah, said 200 soldiers were deployed on Saturday and the remainder would take their places during the next four days.

"This is the beginning of the deployment of 750 Egyptian border soldiers along the Philadelphi corridor according to the agreement between the Egyptians and the Israelis to maintain security along the Gaza-Egypt border after the Israeli withdrawal," Youssef told The Associated Press.

Youssef said the soldiers will be responsible for preventing infiltration of weapons and drugs into the Palestinian-controlled area following Israel's imminent withdrawal from the Mediterranean coastal strip after a 38-year occupation.

The soldiers deploying along the Philadelphi corridor, known to Arabs as the Saladin corridor, will be able to carry heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers, Youssef added.

The troops are deploying to an area near the Rafah refugee camp, which has been a frequent scene of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, ahead of Israel's military withdrawal from Gaza.

On Friday, the Israeli military destroyed the last of its military facilities in Gaza and prepared to hand over the territory to the Palestinians early next week. Two weeks ago, Israel completed the removal of all 8,500 Jewish settlers who lived in 21 settlements among nearly 1.4 million Palestinians.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has said he expects all Israeli soldiers out of Gaza by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest if the Israeli Cabinet decides that troops should raze more than two dozen synagogues still standing in the otherwise demolished Jewish settlements. The alternative is to leave them intact, with the expectation the Palestinians will preserve the buildings.

Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, is expected in Gaza on Sunday to try to wrap up a border deal between Israel and the Palestinians after Israel's pullout from the coastal territory, Palestinian officials said.

At issue is the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Israel has closed temporarily as part of its withdrawal early next week.

Israel has agreed in principle to the deployment of foreign inspectors at Rafah when it reopens for passenger traffic, but says a final deal depends on how well the Palestinians combat militant groups. The Palestinians want a firmer commitment from Israel, including an opening date for Rafah.