Egypt busts hundreds of smuggling tunnels, and a spy
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Egypt busts hundreds of smuggling tunnels, and a spy

Cairo is tougher on smuggling today than it was in Mubarak’s time, says Israeli expert

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian workers unload gravel being pulled from a smuggling tunnel between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on April 3, 2013 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)
Palestinian workers unload gravel being pulled from a smuggling tunnel between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on April 3, 2013 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Egyptian security forces operating in northern Sinai have arrested a man suspected of collaborating with Israel, while destroying over 150 smuggling tunnels leading into the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, the suspected spy, a resident of [Egyptian] Rafah identified by the initials “Ali A. S.”, was apprehended in a desolate area in the peninsula. The man is the sixth suspect in an espionage chain exposed last month, the daily reported.

Meanwhile, military forces charged with hampering Palestinian smuggling in northern Sinai as part of “Operation Eagle,” which began in August 2011, have exposed 276 smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip, demolishing 154 of them.

Shlomo Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said he believed hundreds of tunnels still existed between Sinai and Gaza, but added that the Egyptian government was now cracking down on them more seriously than in Hosni Mubarak’s days.

“Paradoxically, Egypt has more of an interest to combat smuggling activity today than in Mubarak’s time,” Brom told The Times of Israel. “Basically, Egypt does not want Hamas to get it into trouble. Egypt needs quiet and stability. When there’s a flare-up with Israel, the Egyptian government fears being dragged into it, through pressure from the street.”

Brom added that “political Egypt” functions on a separate level to “security Egypt,” which continues to fully cooperate with Israel, “even better that it did before.”

“There’s an unintentional role-play between these two groups,” Brom added. “President [Morsi] wants to deal with internal matters, which are the really problematic ones … and leave the security and Israel portfolios with the military. It’s convenient for him.”

On Sunday, Egyptian forces confiscated a motor boat on its way to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels, local media reported.

 

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