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Gaza govt: Inquiry cleared Palestinians in Sinai attack

Sept. 17, 2012 11:47 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 18, 2012 6:04 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The government in the Gaza Strip has conducted an investigation with Egyptian coordination into the deadly border attack last month, and found no Palestinians were involved, a Palestinian official said on Monday.

Neither residents of the Gaza Strip nor other Palestinians played a part in the killing of 16 Egyptian security officials on Aug. 5, spokesman of Gaza's interior ministry, Ehab al-Ghasein, said in a statement.

He warned against taking news reports as an accurate account of the attack on the Sinai border post. Egypt and Gaza have continuous official contacts on political, economic and security levels, and formed a Joint Security Committee after the border assault, he said.

News circulating about Palestinian involvement is designed to sow Fitna (discord) between Egyptians and Palestinians, especially after the Egyptian revolution increased Egypt's support to Palestine, al-Ghasein said.

Shortly after the attack, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing and moved to seal myriad smuggling tunnels with Gaza on suspicion they might have been used by militants who shot dead the soldiers before storming an Israeli border crossing near Gaza.

The crossing was later reopened, and tunnel traders said few routes had been blocked off. On Monday, Gaza's minister of economy, Aladdin Rafati, said the tunnels were functioning well and under the ministry's supervision.

He denied reports that proposals for a free trade zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt had been postponed pending reconciliation with the West Bank government, saying discussions with Egypt on the subject were on track.

Hamas officials have consistently denied that Palestinian gunmen took part in the Sinai killings and has criticized Cairo for imposing "collective punishment" on the impoverished Mediterranean coastal enclave by sealing the border.

Egypt said in early September it had identified seven suspects, including one Egyptian, in the border attack.

Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal El-Din told state-owned al-Akhbar newspaper that the Egyptian suspect belonged to a dormant local jihadi cell but did not mention the nationalities of the other suspects or say if any of the seven had been detained.

On Sunday, Egyptian security forces came under fire after they detained four people in Rafah village Mahdia officials said were wanted in connection to the attack.

In Sheikh Zuwaid, troops with about 30 armored personnel carriers backed by helicopters fought with militants.

One soldier was killed and seven soldiers suffered gun wounds in the fighting around Sheikh Zuwaid, the army spokesman said, and a woman and child were wounded in crossfire.
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