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Egypt starts dig on Gaza border to flood tunnels

Gaza's tunnels have been destroyed by Israeli bombs and Egyptian bulldozers [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 31 August, 2015

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Under the pretext of ending smuggling, Egyptian military bulldozers are digging through the sand along the border with the Gaza Strip in recent days in renewed campaign to pressure Hamas.

Egypt has renewed its military campaign against Hamas by digging up tunnels along its border with the Gaza Strip.

Cairo says its campaign of destroying the tunnels - which began following the overthrow of Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi - is intended to pressure the Hamas government to cut the flow of militants and weapons from Gaza to the Sinai. 

Hamas denies the charges and says that the destruction of the tunnels cuts Gaza's only lifeline to the outside world.

The project, billed as an Egyptian military-operated fish farm, effectively would fill the border area with water and is designed to put an end to the last remaining cross-border underground smuggling routes, Egyptian military officials said.

Water from the Mediterranean is pumped through massive hoses and pipes into the reservoirs, increasing the water's filtration in the soil.

This technique not only allows for water to immerse into the underground tunnels, but also ultimately leads to their collapse, making it impossible to dig future tunnels.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi confirmed in mid-May that military operations "destroyed 80 percent of tunnels with Gaza". 

It also created a three-kilometer buffer zone with its Palestinian neighbour, however, the issue of national security is still on high on Egypt's list following a spate of attacks on Egyptian security in the Sinai peninsular.

Last week, three gunmen killed two policeman in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group. Blaming the tunnels for the inflow of weapons and militants to its territory, Egypt wants to shut down the tunnels for good.

Officials said that the army started digging 18 fisheries early last week.

Diggers and bulldozers operated in several locations along the 14-kilometre border with Gaza, which has choked the Gazan economy and strengthened Egypt's political ties with Israel.

Hamas accused Egypt of further isolating the Palestinian territory.

Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told AP, "Egypt should not slide into this cliff that agrees with the Israeli policies of siege; the new excavations are tightening the grip of siege on Gaza."

An unnamed source source told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the Sisi government have bowed down to Israeli demands.

"This government is doing everything to please Israeli; they have evacuated Egyptian civilians from Rafah, they have permanently closed the Rafah borders, and now they are destroying all the tunnels," he said.
 
The excavation of tunnels has inevitably affected the smuggling trade between Egypt and Gaza.

It has caused the prices of basic goods to increase as much as 60 percent.

One anonymous smuggler revealed that transporting motorbikes parts, which would have cost $6,000, now costs $10,000 because of the high-risk situation.

These strong-arm tactics will not only threaten to destroy homes in Gaza, but will add to the pressure the population already faces from an Israeli seige on the territory.

Rafah mayor Subhi Radwan said, "We appeal to our brothers in Egypt to stop the work that endangers the people of Gaza, we have enough problems: wars, siege and a difficult economic situation."

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