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Egypt to Guard Gaza Border After Israeli Withdrawal

Israel and Egypt have agreed on a plan that will put Egyptian guards along the Gaza border with Egypt, once the Israeli withdrawal from the area is complete.

Israeli Army Radio made the announcement of the new plan for security in what is known as the Philadelphi corridor, which runs between Egypt and Gaza.

Under the agreement, Egypt will deploy 750 border guards along in the area to replace the Israeli security forces, once they withdraw.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the radio that the new agreement gives comprehensive responsibility to the Egyptians to stop weapons smuggling both above ground and in tunnels. Palestinians militants have dug hundreds of tunnels over the years, to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, of the Labor Party, welcomes the new agreement.

Mr. Peres says the presence of the Egyptian force willl help prevent smuggling.

Not everyone is so sure.

Senior members of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's own Likud Party oppose the transfer as a dangerous move that will leave Israel vulnerable.

Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Israeli parliament, says the agreement will bring the Egyptian army right up to Israel's doorstep - something he believes would threaten Israeli security.

The transfer of security authority to Egypt is a major element in bringing to an end Israels 38-year occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday, Israel completed the evacuation of all 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank, as part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial disengagement plan.

President Bush praised the evacuation, adding that the next step is to build a working Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip.