Egypt-Israel border blocked in support of kidnapped soldiers

Egyptian police climb the gates at the main Egyptian crossing point into the Gaza Strip on May 19, 2013. Egyptian police closed a commercial passage with Israel in support of colleagues who shut down a crossing with Gaza to protest the abduction of policemen, state media reported.

An Egyptian-Israeli commercial link was closed Sunday as protesting police push for the release of colleagues kidnapped on Thursday at a border crossing in the Sinai Peninsula.

Officers shut down the Al-Ouga crossing to support coworkers who closed a border checkpoint between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Friday, Agence France-Presse said.

Gunmen abducted four Egyptian soldiers and three police officers stationed at the Gaza-Egypt crossing, AFP said, citing the state-run MENA news service.

A spate of hostage-takings has rocked the Sinai, which borders Israel as well as Gaza, but they usually last for no longer than 48 hours and are often carried out by Bedouin seeking the release of jailed relatives, according to AFP.

Such abductions have been on the rise since the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

Families of the missing men joined the blockade along the Gaza-Egypt border on Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

An estimated 170 people flooded a building at the crossing to demand a swift rescue.

“We swore we would not open this crossing or leave this place until these soldiers come back, whether dead or alive,” one protesting officer, Osama Ali, told the LA Times.

The gunmen are demanding the release of prisoners, Reuters reported, and trapped the seven security forces between the towns of el-Arish and Rafah.

In response, police hung barbed wire and locked up gates at the checkpoint.

A representative of Hamas, which controls Gaza, said the police action jeopardized the negotiations.

“There are promises to follow up on the matter, but in spite of these promises the suffering is still building up. We consider the continued closure of the crossing unjustified and incomprehensible,” the spokesman told Al Jazeera.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told MENA that he wouldn’t negotiate with the gunmen, according to Al Jazeera.

“There are no negotiations with criminals and the awe of the state will be preserved,” Morsi said, according to Al Jazeera.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.