Gaza tunnel destroyed 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Egypt has declared a state of emergency on its border with Gaza, the Ma’an news agency reported on Saturday.
According to the report, which cited Egyptian defense officials, Cairo learned of a Palestinian plan to break out of the blockaded Strip. Four days earlier, four Palestinians were killed and six were wounded inside a smuggling tunnel under that same Sinai-Gaza border.
Hamas accused Egypt of using poisonous chemicals to gas the smugglers.
Egypt denied the allegation, saying it routinely blows up the mouths to the tunnels to seal them off, and that the blast and an ensuing fire could quickly use up all the oxygen in the confined space, suffocating people inside.
Egypt has been under pressure to shut down the hundreds of tunnels that
are an economic lifeline for the Strip and which are also used to bring
in weapons for Hamas.
Palestinian officials in Gazan Rafah said Egypt has stepped up a
crackdown on smuggling in recent months, blowing up numerous tunnel
entrances on its side of the border, setting up checkpoints in the area
and confiscating contraband. Since December, Egypt has also been
building an underground steel wall to block the tunnels.