Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed earlier to seal the border and stop lawlessness in Gaza which has worsened after Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation.

Hundreds of Palestinian policemen in buses and jeeps arrived on Saturdat at Gaza's border with Egypt to join hundreds of officers who had started massing, witnesses said. A Palestinian security source said hundreds more have been called in as well.

Israel ceded control of a buffer zone on the frontier to Egypt as part of its Gaza withdrawal. But the 750 Egyptian officers who were deployed there were unable to stop thousands of Palestinians and Egyptians from crossing over to the other side in recent days through holes Palestinian fighters had blasted through a barrier after the pullout.

The source said the forces would allow Egyptians and Gazans to return home only after checking their identify cards. They would also try to prevent drug smuggling into Gaza.

Palestinian fighters have also smuggled weapons into Gaza, a long standing fear of Israel, which says armed factions could eventually overpower the Palestinian Authority and take over the territory.

Gaza access

"We understand perfectly well that without an inflow of people and goods within Gaza or outside Gaza, Gaza will not be able to exist"

Shimon Peres,
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister
 

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Friday acknowledged the importance of linking Gaza with the West Bank, but said any crossing point should not become a conduit for arms smuggling.

"We understand perfectly well that without an inflow of people and goods within Gaza or outside Gaza, Gaza will not be able to exist," Peres said at a forum on peace and development hosted by former US president Bill Clinton.

Abbas, speaking at the UN summit here earlier Friday, urged action on the access question.