Egypt destroys smuggling tunnels under Gaza border

Published July 5th, 2015 - 08:00 GMT

Egyptian forces on Saturday discovered and destroyed a 1.5 kilometer (1 mile)smuggling tunnel beneath the Gazan border, the Egyptian army said.

Egyptian security sources told Ma'an that the tunnel was found by Egyptian border guards in the Dayniya area south of Rafah.
They said that eight sacks of explosive TNT material and a half-ton of C-4 -- another explosive material -- had been found inside the tunnel.

Both the tunnel and the explosive material were destroyed by the army.

Smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007, which is supported by Egypt.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

Egypt has sought to destroy the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.

At least 70 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in attacks on Wednesday, which many attributed to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a militant group that changed its name to "Sinai Province" after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.

In the past, Egypt has accused Hamas of supporting militant groups in the Sinai, although Hamas strongly denies the allegations.
Hamas on Friday also dismissed Israeli accusations they had backed Wednesday's attacks, with a spokesman saying: "We are intent on (preserving) Egypt's security."

In the last year, Hamas itself has been challenged in Gaza by a number of small militant groups, which have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas' observance of a tacit ceasefire with Israel.

"Hamas is finding it difficult to control Islamic Jihad and other elements," an Israeli official said in June, referring to Hamas' ability to maintain quiet in the coastal enclave.

Hamas has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.

The Egyptian army has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels since then, though new ones continue to be found.

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