RAFAH, Egypt, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Egyptian forces fired water
cannons at Palestinians trying to force their way across the
Gaza-Egypt border on Friday and warned over loudspeakers the
border would close at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT), witnesses said.
But security sources said Egyptian forces still did not have
direct orders to fully close the border at any specific time,
and a similar announcement made by loudspeakers on Thursday
evening to close the border had not been carried out.
"Palestinian brothers, quickly return to the border. The
border will close at 3 p.m.," police announced on a loudspeaker
mounted to a car at the border. Similar announcements were being
made by loudspeaker in the coastal town of el-Arish.
Security sources said Egyptian security men were trying to
block Palestinians from entering at all, apart from one border
point in Rafah, two days after Palestinians blasted open the
border in defiance of an Israeli blockade.
The sources said Egypt had closed back roads that
Palestinians were using after entering at other spots along the
border, and were also trying to stop Palestinians from reaching
Egyptian forces began placing barbed wire near the collapsed
steel border wall early on Friday, and witnesses said
Palestinians threw stones at Egyptian forces, who responded by
beating some Palestinians with clubs and firing several shots
into the air.
Security forces were allowing Palestinians to exit Egypt
from any point along the border line. Witnesses said some 40
truckloads of security men had been sent to el-Arish and were
awaiting orders to deploy at the border.
Israel, which says its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza is
intended to counter rocket fire by militants, has said it wanted
to cut its links with the coastal strip by handing the supply of
electricity, water and medicine to others.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was up to
Egypt to ensure the security of its border with Gaza, and
Washington said it was willing to work with Egyptian authorities
to restore order but did not give details.
Israel occupied Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war but pulled
troops and settlers out in 2005, although it still controls the
strip's northern and eastern borders, airspace and coastal