Leading Egypt clerics back Gaza tunnel barrier
CAIRO - A council of leading Muslim clerics has supported the Egyptian government's construction of an underground barrier along the border with Gaza to impede tunnelling by smugglers, a report said on Friday.
The Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, said that the tunnels were used to smuggle drugs and threatened Egypt's security, the Al-Masri Al-Yawm newspaper reported.
"It is one of Egypt's legitimate rights to place a barrier that prevents the harm from the tunnels under Rafah, which are used to smuggle drugs and other (contraband) that threaten Egypt's stability," the paper quoted the clerics as saying.
"Those who oppose building this wall are violating the commands of Islamic law," they added, after a meeting attended by Egypt's top cleric Sheikh Mohammed Said Tantawi, who is a government appointee.
Construction of the underground barrier has drawn angry condemnation from the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, which relies on the tunnels for food and fuel, as well as the weapons and other contraband the barrier is designed to stop.
Israel has sealed the territory off to all but very limited supplies of basic goods ever since the Islamist group seized control in 2007, ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Hamdi Hassan, an Islamist member of the Egyptian parliament, has filed a lawsuit against President Hosni Mubarak demanding a halt to construction of the barrier, the newspaper reported.