Official: Egypt to crack down on Gaza tunnels
Published Wednesday 28/11/2012 (updated) 30/11/2012 11:45
A youth retrieves a cooking gas canister near smuggling tunnels in the
southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 22. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian security services are planning an "extraordinary" crackdown on smuggling tunnels under the Gaza border, a security source said Wednesday.
The Egyptian security official said tunnels were operating at 5 percent of previous levels, and were mostly smuggling construction material to Gaza.
Israel bombarded the tunnels area in the southern Gaza Strip during its eight-day war which ended with a ceasefire on Nov. 24.
The official said Egypt's planned campaign to end smuggling was part of the truce agreement brokered by Cairo.
Israel bans the import of construction materials for the private sector in Gaza, so residents seeking to rebuild their destroyed homes and businesses are reliant on building materials smuggled through tunnels.
According to Israeli NGO Gisha, around 47 percent of civilian goods entering Gaza arrive through the tunnels, including cement, snack foods, spare parts, electronic equipment and fuel.
Since 2007, Israel has closed three out of four crossings to deliver goods to Gaza, leaving only Kerem Shalom open.
"Despite the fact that the capacity of this crossing has been increased, it cannot meet the needs that would arise if the tunnels were to close and Rafah Crossing were to remain closed for the transport of commercial goods and fuel," Gisha says.