Egypt still closing tunnels, keeping the pressure on Hamas

Egyptian security personnel warn Gaza’s ruling militant group that they will be held responsible for any terrorism near their border.

By i24news


Egypt security officials issued a strict warning to Hamas on Friday, telling the militant group that it would not accept the use of smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, according to a report by Israel Radio.

Vue d'un tunnel creusé en territoire israélien depuis la bande de Gaza, le 13 octobre 2013  ( David Buimovitch (AFP) )

Gaza Tunnel – David Buimovitch/AFP

Egypt also warned that Hamas would be held responsible for any incursions near the border.

Since the overthrow of Morsi, Egyptian security forces have sealed and destroyed most of the 1,200 tunnels that used to bring food, cars and weapons into Gaza.

Hamas officials said Egypt’s closure of tunnels had caused a severe economic crisis in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, slowed construction, caused sharp fuel and power shortages and led to hike in prices.

Earlier this month, the Egyptian army launched an operation aimed at creating a buffer zone along Egypt’s border with the Gaza strip. The campaign began with the destruction of ten smuggling tunnels and seven homes in the border city of Rafah, located in the Sinai Peninsula, Palestinian new agency Ma’an reported.

According to Ma’an, the buffer zone would extent 500 meters in open areas along the border and 300 meters in populated areas of Rafah.

Relations between Hamas and Egypt’s new rulers have been tense. Cairo accuses the Islamist faction of meddling in its affairs on behalf of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, an ally of Hamas — an allegation Hamas rejects.

The military operation against Islamist militants operating in Sinai was initially launched by Egyptian forces in September 2013 as a response to the growing tension and violence in Sinai following the July 3 coup that resulted in the ousting of the democratically elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory, especially in light of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.


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