A smuggling tunnel beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday Palestinian witnesses said.
The authorities used pipes to pump water from the Mediterranean Sea in an apparent effort to curb the use of the underground passages.
Tunnel workers attempted to remove the water.
The network of tunnels is used to bring in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach Gaza. Smugglers have also used the underground passageways to bring in weapons used by terrorists groups in the Palestinian enclave.
During last summer's war in Gaza, Hamas used tunnels leading into Israel
to infiltrate on four occasions, killing 12 soldiers. The IDF said it destroyed 32 tunnels.
Since taking office in 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has led attempts to crack down on Islamist insurgents
in the Sinai Peninsula. The government in Cairo declared a state of emergency in the border area last year after at least 33 security personnel were killed in attacks in the region bordering Gaza.
It also said people who used illegal crossings to transfer goods or equipment could also face a life sentence, as well as people with knowledge of them who failed to report them to the authorities.
Residents of Sinai, who complain they have long been neglected by the state, say they rely on smuggling trade through tunnels for their living. Egyptian authorities see the tunnels as a threat and regularly destroy them.
In November Egypt said it would deepen its buffer zone with Gaza after finding local tunnels, expanding the zone from 500 meters to 1 kilometer.