Egypt Denies Conducting Operations to Destroy Gaza Tunnels

Previous media reports said that Egypt had begun operations to close smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip.

Egypt denied on Monday that it was undertaking drilling operations along the Gaza-Egypt border to destroy and seal a number of smuggling tunnels delivering supplies to Gaza.

The governor of North Sinai, General Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, said there was no campaign intended to destroy the tunnels, adding that, if there were a plan, "residents in Gaza would be informed in order to protect the lives of Palestinians that work in the tunnels."

smuggling tunnel AP

He told the German Press Agency dpa: "The two large loading trucks which arrived on the border are property of a contractor and not the province."

Media reports said that Egypt had launched a campaign to close the tunnels. One Palestinian newspaper, al-Ayyam, described it as the largest operation since the revolution that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

The newspaper reported that Egyptian security forces were using modern equipment and machines in drilling operations at the southern point of the border, near Yebna camp, and the Salaheddin Gate, at the Rafah border.

The majority of Gaza's population depends on items smuggled through tunnels to have their basic needs met, since Israel imposed a land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007. This has also become a lucrative business.

Israel has accused Egypt in the past of not doing enough to stop the smuggling of arms across its border, especially since the revolution.

After Israel's offensive in Gaza in December 2008, Egyptian border guards began using modern equipment and machinery provided by the United States to prevent smuggling along the tunnels.

The military presence has been beefed up in the Sinai peninsula, after Israel killed five Egyptian policemen on August 19 in airstrikes targeting Palestinian militants it had accused of infiltrating Egypt's borders and carrying out attacks on southern Israel.