Smuggling tunnel found under Egypt-Gaza border

Published January 18th, 2015 - 06:00 GMT

Egyptian security sources said Saturday morning that the armed forces had uncovered and destroyed a smuggling tunnel running under the Gaza-Egypt border that contained a large amount of explosives and mortar shells.

The sources told a Ma'an reporter in Cairo that the tunnel ran about 1,200 meters and the entrance was located inside of a house belonging to an Egyptian smuggler located on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah.

The sources said that the tunnel is believed to be one of the biggest in the area. 

Egyptian army engineering units reportedly blew up the tunnel and were preparing to blow up the house as well, whose owner had managed to flee before the tunnel was discovered. 

The opening of the tunnel was discovered under the floor tiles of a bed room. 

According to the sources, the tunnel interior was covered with steel boards and the floor was made of iron bars covered with wood boards. 

The tunnel was outfitted with electric lights and an internal communication network. A few meters from the opening, there was even a gate.

The sources added that army intelligence suggested that there were other smuggling tunnels in the area which could potentially run up to three kilometers into Egypt. 

The Egyptian military has destroyed dozens of tunnels leading from Gaza into Egypt in recent weeks, amid a renewed campaign to end the traffic of goods and weapons underneath the border.

Army officials have said that the crackdown will also eventually include the complete destruction of the Egyptian side of the city of Rafah, which straddles the border, entailing the displacement of thousands.

Until the July 2013 ouster of democratically-elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade, which has been in place since 2007.

Since the coup, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and targeted the tunnels, with military sources estimating that the vast majority were destroyed in the Fall of 2013. 

A blast that killed around 30 policemen in Sinai in October, however, led to renewed scrutiny by Egyptian army officials, who blamed Hamas for supporting an insurgency against the government by Wahhabi militants in the region.

Hamas has denied the charges, instead accusing Egypt's military government for targeting the group due to its close relationship with former president Morsi.

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