Egypt destroys smuggling tunnels on Gaza border

Coastal enclave becoming more isolated as Egypt continues destroying illegal channels while frequently closing the Rafah crossing

A Palestinian sits in one of Gaza's smuggling tunnels (photo credit: Hatem Moussa/AP)
A Palestinian sits in one of Gaza's smuggling tunnels (photo credit: Hatem Moussa/AP)

Egyptian security forces destroyed eight tunnels along the Gaza-Sinai border used for smuggling goods and people, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

According to a report in Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm, the tunnels were destroyed by Egypt’s Border Patrol and army engineers in the vicinity of the border town of Rafah.

Hamas uses smuggling tunnels into Egypt as a way to circumvent the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and smuggle weapons, building supplies, fuel and consumer goods into the Palestinian territory.

Since the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July, however, the Egyptian military has clamped down on tunneling after it became clear that the subterranean routes also facilitated the transfer of military supplies, equipment and personnel to Islamist militias operating in the northern Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian army is engaged in a widespread military operation to regain control of Sinai from militant groups that have killed dozens of Egyptian policemen and soldiers.

Last month, a senior Hamas official said that Egypt’s closure of smuggling tunnels between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip is costing the organization $230 million in lost revenue.

The closures are also affecting the general population, as the loss of fuel supplies through the tunnel has forced Gaza’s only power plant to shut down, causing power outages that last as long as 12 hours.

Egypt also has halted transfers of Qatari-funded fuel and frequently closed the Rafah border crossing because of militant attacks on Egyptian security forces in the lawless Sinai Peninsula.

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