Region | Egypt

Egypt destroys 1,370 Gaza smuggling tunnels: army

Strip has been under blockade since 2006

  • AFP
  • Published: 18:37 March 12, 2014
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • A Palestinian man works in a tunnel in Rafah, on the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip. Since the summer, Egypt’s military has tried to destroy or seal off most of the smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, a consequence of the heightened tensions between Cairo and the Hamas government in Gaza.

Cairo: Egypt’s military said Wednesday it has destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip, as Cairo’s ties remain sour with the Hamas movement that rules the Palestinian enclave.

Ties took a turn for the worse after the military’s July ouster of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Hamas is affiliated.

The statement did not say when the tunnels were destroyed, but the military has poured troops into the adjacent Sinai Peninsula to counter militancy that has grown since July.

The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

But Hamas and other groups reportedly use their own more secret tunnels to bring in arms and money.

Gaza has been under blockade since 2006, after fighters captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.

Egypt accuses Hamas of having colluded with the Brotherhood in carrying out “terror attacks” on its territory in the past few years.

Dozens of alleged Hamas activists have been named among scores of defendants, including Mursi, in trials for organising jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.

In a separate espionage trial, Mursi and 35 other defendants are accused of conspiring with foreign powers, including Hamas and Iran, to destabilise Egypt.

Hamas has denied Egyptian accusations that it is involved in fighting in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

On March 4, an Egyptian court banned Hamas from operating in Egypt and ordered the seizure of its assets there.

The Brotherhood has also been designated as a “terrorist organisation” by Egypt’s military-installed authorities.

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