Cairo Begins Work on Wall Along Border with Gaza Strip
Egypt has started construction on a concrete wall to separate the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip. The barrier is expected to stretch some two miles, with the ostensible aim of preventing the smuggling of weaponry into the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory. The move could have significant ramifications on the blockaded enclave given that the Rafah crossing with Egypt is the only transit point for Gazans aside from Israel-controlled checkpoints. According to media reports, the wall will be complemented by an underground structure designed to block smuggling tunnels. President Abdel al-Fatah al-Sisi, who has played the leading role in attempting to forge a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, was reportedly furious when Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh oversaw a vigil in Tehran in honor of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Quds Force leader killed in a January 3 US drone strike in Baghdad. Cairo had apparently allowed Haniyeh to exit Gaza on condition that he not travel to Tehran, which, along with Qatar, is the major backer of Palestinian terrorist groups in the enclave.