Hamas and Egypt trade fire in border dispute

Egyptian troops and Hamas police shot at each other across the volatile Gaza-Egypt border today, killing a Palestinian man and wounding at least 44 Gazans and Egyptians.

Egyptian troops and Hamas police shot at each other across the volatile Gaza-Egypt border today, killing a Palestinian man and wounding at least 44 Gazans and Egyptians.

It was the most serious outbreak of violence on the border since Hamas militants blew up a border wall on January 23. Egyptian forces reclosed the border yesterday.

On the Palestinian side, a 42-year-old man was killed and six people were wounded by gunfire, said a Gaza health official, Dr Moaiya Hassanain. Egyptian authorities said 38 members of the Egyptian security forces, including a colonel, were wounded.

Egyptian guards fired live bullets at the crowd, wounding several, witnesses said. Bullets landed close to the Gaza side of the border. Later, members of the Hamas security force fired back.

After the clash, four vehicles with Hamas police drove in to break up the crowd, using sticks to push people away from the border.

The tensions began when the Egyptian guards sealed the border today, not even allowing Egyptians and Gazans who had found themselves on the wrong side of the border to return home.

Witnesses said anger boiled over in the late afternoon as people on both sides waited for permission to cross over. Gazans started throwing stones at the Egyptians, and Hamas did not interfere.

Youths began pelting an Egyptian command post in the area, and forces there first threw stones back, and then fired tear gas. Medics said 26 people were treated for tear gas inhalation.

Egyptian security officials in nearby El-Arish said Egyptian officers fired in the air. In Cairo, an official said there was a heavy exchange of fire.

The Egyptian troops closed the border yesterday, using metal spikes and barbed wire, ending a 12-day breach that had allowed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to visit Egyptian border towns.

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