Egyptian police officers have blocked a border crossing into Israel, in protest against the kidnapping of their comrades by Islamist militants. President Mohammed Morsi has refused to negotiate with the kidnappers.
Dozens of Egyptian police officers blocked the al-Awja border crossing into Israel on Sunday, calling on the Morsi government to help free seven of their colleagues held hostage by gunmen in the Sinai Peninsula.
According to local official Ahmed Osman, the blockade left some 40 trucks stranded near the crossing, which is used to transport commercial goods between Egypt and Israel. Police officers have also been blocking the Rafah border crossing (pictured above) into the Gaza Strip since Friday.
President Morsi on Sunday rejected a negotiated release of the security personnel, saying that "there are no negotiations with criminals," according to the official MENA news agency. Morsi said on his Twitter account that "all options are on the table."
"We will not succumb to any blackmail," the Egyptian president tweeted.
YouTube video of 'hostages'
The suspected kidnappers reportedly uploaded a video to an anonymous YouTube account on Sunday, in which the seven hostages pleaded with Morsi to meet their captors' demands. The perpetrators are calling for the release of Islamist militants imprisoned by the Egyptian government.
"The demands of the brothers, Mr. President, is the release of political prisoners from Sinai," an alleged hostage, who identifies himself as Corporal Ibrahim Sobhi Ibrahim, says in the video. "Please, Mr. President, release them quickly. We can no longer tolerate torture."
YouTube later removed the video, saying that it violated the company's policy on violence. Although a rifle at one point appears over the head of some of the captives, there were no visible signs of torture in the video, according to the Associated Press. The identities of all the men in the video have not been confirmed.
Lawlessness in Sinai
The border guard and six police officers were captured last Thursday on the road from Sinai to Cairo. The Sinai Peninsula descended into lawlessness after the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Islamist militants have exploited the power vacuum to use the remote desert region as a base of operations to launch attacks against Egypt and Israel. Bedouin tribesmen in the region have long complained of being discriminated against by the government in Cairo.
In August 2012, Islamist militants attacked a checkpoint near the Gaza Strip, killing 16 Egyptian security forces and breaching the border before being killed in an Israeli airstrike. Morsi responded by launching an offensive to regain control of the North Sinai.
slk/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)