Hamas says in contact with Egypt to contain border crisis

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GAZA, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Hamas is holding contacts with Egypt to prevent further deterioration of the relations between the two sides after an Egyptian soldier was shot dead in a Hamas-led rally on the border, a Hamas leader said on Thursday.

"Hamas is fully interested in ending the crisis with Egypt and desirous of keeping good relations with the country," said Mahmoud Zahar, a Gaza-based member of the Hamas politburo.

"There is a strong tension, but we are trying hard to calm the situation down through contacts between Hamas and Egypt," Zahar told reporters.

On Wednesday, Hamas supporters threw stones at Egyptian forces on the Gaza border with Egypt, triggering armed clashes between the two sides in which an Egyptian soldier was gunned down at his observation tower.

The Hamas demonstrators rallied on the sealed border to protest against the alleged underground wall construction and Egyptian restrictions on an international aid convoy entering Gaza.

Tension between Hamas and Egypt has mounted recently after several media reports said that Egypt is constructing a steel barrier under the borderline to prevent Palestinian smuggling through underground tunnels.

Cairo has not officially announced the building of a steel barrier under its borders with Gaza, however, some government officials said it is Egypt's right to defend its borders and protect its national security.

On Tuesday night, clashes erupted between the Egyptian security forces and activists with Viva Palestina convoy after Cairo refused to allow 55 out of the 198 trucks with the aid convoy to pass through Rafah crossing citing that they are carrying commercial goods.