Dozens of Palestinians affiliated with Hamas demonstrated on Saturday near the Egyptian border, pleading with Egypt not to destroy smuggling tunnels to the Gaza Strip which they called “the life line of 1.5 million Palestinians.”

The demonstrators at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt also demanded that Egypt permanently open the Rafah border crossing, which has been partially active since a Jihadist group attacked an Egyptian army post near the border on August 5, killing 16 soldiers.

Following the attack, the Egyptian army initiated “Operation Eagle” in northern Sinai, which included the systematic destruction of tunnels used by Palestinians in Gaza to smuggle goods and arms.

A Hamas spokesman in Rafah, Mansour Breik, told news sources in Gaza that Palestinians only resorted to digging smuggling tunnels to provide “basic necessities” such as medication and school supplies for children. “Do not leave us hostage to the Israeli pressures,” Breik appealed to the Egyptians at the demonstration.

Israel eased its restrictions on products allowed into the Gaza Strip in July 2010, allowing the import of all products but “double use” items, mostly construction materials, which could be used in the manufacturing of weapons.

Meanwhile, A Hamas delegation headed by political chief Khaled Mashaal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will arrive in Cairo Monday to discuss the tunnel issue with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The Hamas delegation will also discuss Egypt’s efforts to mediate reconciliation with its Palestinian rival movement Fatah, news sources in Gaza reported.