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'No proof that Gazans linked to Sinai attack'

world Updated: Aug 12, 2012 20:15 IST

AFP
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Gaza's Hamas rulers on Sunday insisted that so far, there was no proof that any Palestinian was involved in a deadly attack on Egyptian troops in northern Sinai which left 16 dead.

"Until now, neither the Palestinian nor the Egyptian security services have proof that any party in Gaza supported or executed the attack," said senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil.

"Egypt hasn't supplied the Gaza government with any accusation or given any information about the involvement of Palestinians," he told reporters at a press conference in Gaza City.

"If it is proven that a Palestinian was involved, then measures will be taken," he said, pledging that if there was any evidence against anyone from Gaza, "we will be the first to prosecute the criminals."

Within hours of the attack, sources in Cairo suggested some of the gunmen had entered Sinai through the network of smuggling tunnels which run under the Gaza border, prompting Hamas to take the unprecedented step of shutting them down.

Cairo also ordered the closure of the Rafah border crossing, Gaza's only gateway to the world which is not controlled by Israel.

The tunnels trade, which analysts estimate is worth half a billion dollars a year, brings a wide variety of goods, including food, fuel and building materials, into the coastal territory which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006.

Egypt has said it wants to destroy the tunnels infrastructure in what many say will be a major blow to the impoverished territory.

"Tunnels are a popular means to penetrate the wall of this criminal blockade," Bardawil said.

"The civilised alternative to tunnels is opening Rafah officially to people and goods. We are sure the Egyptian leadership will work on that alternative and we hope the closure of Rafah won't last for too long.

"We are aware that Egypt is in shock after the crime, but the Palestinian people shouldn't be the victim or target of punishment without proof."