Egypt's Police to fight Bedouins protesting pulling down their houses
A day after U.S. delegation toured Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to probe reports of weapons smuggling Egypt's police have to fight against Bedouins who are trying to protest a government order to pull down their houses along the Gaza Strip's porous border.
Egyptian media have been reporting a government plan to evict the Beduins from a 150 meter (yards) band of land along the border to prevent traffickers from digging tunnels used to smuggle weapons and people into Gaza.
About 3000 protesters shouted anti-government slogans and demanded that authorities rescind the order. "We will not leave our land, we will make it our graves," the Bedouins chanted.
Security officials said at least one police officer was wounded when protesters lobbed rocks at a police force trying to disperse them in downtown Rafah, the main town on the border.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to evict demonstrators from the streets, said one official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Aboul Hassan el-Sinawi, a Bedouin from the Al-Rumelat tribe in Rafah, said local government officials have ordered him and his family to abandon their house, which he said lies some two kilometers (1.3 miles) from the border.
"This is ridiculous, how can a two-kilometer long tunnel be built in the desert," el-Sinawi said.
Protesters said authorities warned those who refuse eviction that their homes would be demolished. They said the government is offering financial compensation for their houses, but not for trees and farmlands.
Egypt is under pressure from the United States and Israel to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza ever since Hamas seized control of the tiny coastal territory in June.
Two congressional delegations inspected the border zone this month, including one on Sunday, to probe reports about the tunnels along the 14-kilometer (8.70 miles) border.
Egyptian authorities are considering a plan to demolish all homes within 100 meters (yards) of the borders to prevent them from being used to hide tunnels.