|Gaza smuggling tunnel 311.(Photo by: Ashley Bates)|
Abbas urges Egypt to destroy underground tunnels
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
For first time, PA publicly calls for destruction of underground tunnels to Gaza, asking Egypt to them to tighten blockade.
Buoyed by growing tensions between Hamas and Cairo in wake of last week’s
terrorist attack in Sinai, the Palestinian Authority on Saturday called on the
Egyptians to tighten the blockade on Gaza by destroying all tunnels under their
border with the Strip.
The PA said the tunnels did not contribute to the
economy in the Gaza Strip and were being used only by a small number of people
for personal gain.
This was the first time the PA has called publicly for
the destruction of the tunnels.
The appeal came as PA officials continued
to insist that some of the terrorists who killed 16 Egyptian border guards had
come from the Gaza Strip.
The officials hope that tough Egyptian security
measures in Sinai, including the destruction of the tunnels, will undermine
Hamas’s rule in Gaza and possibly bring about its collapse.
In the past
few days, senior officials in Ramallah have been working hard to convince the
Egyptians that Hamas and other radical groups in the Gaza Strip were linked – in
one way or another – to last Sunday’s attack.
The PA has also provided
the Egyptian authorities with the names of several suspects from the Gaza Strip,
a PA security source in Ramallah disclosed.
“We have good security ties
with the Egyptians and we are trying to help them capture the terrorists,” the
source explained. “We have good reason to believe that terrorist groups from the
Gaza Strip were involved in the attack.
These groups operate under the
watchful eye of the Hamas government and sometimes even receive support from
The Sinai attack came at a time when PA leaders in the West Bank
were beginning to express concern over improved relations between Cairo and
Hamas in light of the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy as
Many Egyptians have held Hamas responsible for the attack,
claiming the terrorists entered Sinai though tunnels that are under the strict
supervision of the Hamas government.
Some Egyptians have urged their
government to retaliate by destroying the tunnels and permanently closing the
Rafah border crossing to Gaza.
“The Palestinian presidency renews its
rejection and condemnation of the criminal act carried out by murderous
fundamentalists in Sinai last week and affirms its full solidarity with Egypt,”
said Tayeb Abdel Raheem, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
also fully support all measures carried out by the Egyptian leadership and
security forces against the radical and suspicious terrorist groups, including
measures needed to close the smuggling tunnels that harm the interests and
relations of Palestinian and Egyptians.”
Abdel Raheem said the tunnels
had for some time been posing a threat to Egypt’s national security and the
unity of the Palestinians.
Dismissing claims that the tunnels were being
used to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, Abdel Raheem said they
served only a small group of people – a reference to Hamas leaders.
tunnels have nothing to do with economic prosperity in the Gaza Strip,” he
stressed. “The Palestinian Authority allocates more than half its budget for the
Hamas strongly condemned the PA leadership for calling for
the destruction of the tunnels and accused Abbas of “cheap
Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip,
denounced the call as “immoral and irresponsible.”