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Egypt destroys 20 tunnels along border with Gaza

Cairo continues to enforce blockade of Hamas-run coastal strip as it battles jihadist insurgency in Sinai

An Egyptian tank is seen from the border of southern Gaza Strip with Egypt September 18, 2015. According to Palestinian witnesses, Egyptian forces pumped water from the Mediterranean Sea through pipes to destroy smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. (Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
An Egyptian tank is seen from the border of southern Gaza Strip with Egypt September 18, 2015. According to Palestinian witnesses, Egyptian forces pumped water from the Mediterranean Sea through pipes to destroy smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. (Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

CAIRO, Egypt — The Egyptian military says it’s destroyed 20 recently discovered underground tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip.

The army says the tunnels were found and destroyed in November. The announcement came on its official Facebook page on Monday. There were no further details.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of the Palestinian coastal territory since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. Israel allows in closely monitored humanitarian supplies. For years, Egypt tolerated a smuggling industry that allowed hundreds of tunnels to bring in goods like cigarettes and spare parts, as well as weapons, into the strip.

After a major attack last year and reports of growing ties between Hamas and jihadists battling government forces in Egypt’s Sinai, the military began clearing a buffer zone along the border in an attempt to stamp out the cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

A screen capture from a Facebook post by the Egyptian army showing Gazan smuggling tunnels it says it destroyed in November. (Screen capture: Facebook)
A screen capture from a Facebook post by the Egyptian army showing Gazan smuggling tunnels it says it destroyed in November. (Screen capture: Facebook)

 

A Human Rights Watch report released in September said the Egyptian military’s campaign against the insurgents in Sinai is harming thousands of civilians and risks turning more people against the government.

Cairo has evicted 3,200 families over the past two years, and razed hundreds of acres of farmland and thousands of homes in its bid to destroy illegal smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, the rights group said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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