Report: Egypt to Make Digging Tunnels Along Its Borders a Crime

New law, intended to put an end to smuggling tunnels from Gaza into Sinai, will make the tunnel digging punishable by life imprisonment.

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Palestinian smuggler climbing down into an underground tunnel leading from Gaza to Egypt, in 2010. Credit: Reuters

Egypt will make digging tunnels along its borders a crime, with a punishment of life imprisonment, reported the Cairo Post on Thursday.  The Egyptian cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday to help prevent the digging of smuggling tunnels along the border with Gaza.

Earlier this week the Egyptian army reported it had discovered the longest tunnel ever found from Sinai into Rafah in Gaza – 2.8 kilometers long. The army also said it had destroyed another 22 tunnels from, which makes a total of over 200 smuggling tunnels destroyed over the past few months.

Anyone who knows about such tunnels and did not inform the authorities will also be subject to the same punishment, and their homes, other buildings and tools may be confiscated, the newspaper reported. 

The Egyptians have been establishing a buffer zone along the border, flattening everything – including thousands of homes – up to a kilometer from the border on the Egyptian side.

According to the report, the official Egyptian media have defended the plan as crucial for Egyptian national security, to prevent smuggling and to deal with tunnels being used by terror groups to stage attacks in Sinai.

Egypt announced it was setting up the buffer zone after 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in an October 24, 2014 suicide bombing – and expanded it later when it became clear that a large number of tunnels ran much further into Egyptian territory than originally thought. 

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