x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Egyptian military says it destroyed 1,370 Gaza smuggling tunnels

The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

A Palestinian smuggler in a tunnel in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the border with Egypt on January 25, 2009. Heide Levine for The National
A Palestinian smuggler in a tunnel in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the border with Egypt on January 25, 2009. Heide Levine for The National

CAIRO // Egypt’s military said on Wednesday it has destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip, as Cairo’s ties remain sour with the Hamas movement that rules the Palestinian enclave.

Ties took a turn for the worse after the military’s July removal of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, with which Hamas is affiliated.

The statement did not say when the tunnels were destroyed, but the military has poured troops into the adjacent Sinai Peninsula to counter militancy that has grown since July.

The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

But Hamas and other militant groups reportedly use their own more secret tunnels to bring in arms and money.

Gaza has been under blockade since 2006, after militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.

Egypt accuses Hamas of having colluded with the Brotherhood in carrying out “terror attacks” on its territory in the past few years.

Dozens of alleged Hamas militants have been named among scores of defendants, including Mr Morsi, in trials for organising jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.

In a separate espionage trial, Mr Morsi and 35 other defendants are accused of conspiring with foreign powers, including Hamas and Iran, to destabilise Egypt.

Hamas has denied Egyptian accusations that it is involved in fighting in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

On March 4, an Egyptian court banned Hamas from operating in Egypt and ordered the seizure of its assets there.

The Brotherhood has also been designated as a “terrorist organisation” by Egypt’s military-installed authorities.

* Agence France-Presse