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Egypt floods Gaza tunnels to cut Palestinian lifeline
Published Wednesday 13/02/2013 (updated) 15/02/2013 11:40
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The entrances to smuggling tunnels are seen on the border between
Egypt and southern Gaza. (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, File)

GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years.

Reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water.

"The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels," said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 yards from the border fence.

An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago.

"We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells," he said, declining to be named.

Dozens of tunnels had been destroyed since last August following the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence.

Cairo said some of the gunmen had crossed into Egypt via the tunnels -- a charge denied by Palestinians -- and ordered an immediate crackdown.

The move surprised and angered Gaza's rulers, which had hoped for much better ties with Cairo following the election last year of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who is ideologically close to Hamas.

A Hamas official confirmed Egypt was again targeting the tunnels. He gave no further details and declined to speculate on the timing of the move, which started while Palestinian faction leaders met in Cairo to try to overcome deep divisions.

Criticizing Cairo

Hamas said Monday the Egyptian-brokered talks, aimed at forging a unity government and healing the schism between politicians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, had gone badly but had not collapsed.

While Gaza's rulers have been reluctant to criticise Mursi in public, ordinary Gazans are slightly more vocal.

"Egyptian measures against tunnels have worsened since the election of Mursi. Our Hamas brothers thought he would open up Gaza. I guess they were wrong," said a tunnel owner, who identified himself only as Ayed, fearing reprisal.

"Perhaps 150 or 200 tunnels have been shut since the Sinai attack. This is the Mursi era," he added.

The tunnellers fear the water being pumped underground might collapse the passage ways, with possible disastrous consequences.

"Water can cause cracks in the wall and may cause the collapse of the tunnel. It may kill people," said Ahmed al-Shaer, a tunnel worker whose cousin died a year ago when a tunnel caved in on him.

Six Palestinians died in January in tunnel implosions, raising the death toll amongst workers to 233 since 2007, according to Gazan human rights groups, including an estimated 20 who died in various Israeli air attacks on the border lands.

Israel imposed its blockade for what it called security reasons in 2007. The United Nations has appealed for it to be lifted.

At one stage an estimated 2,500-3,000 tunnels snaked their way under the desert fence but the network has shrunk markedly since 2010, when Israel eased some of the limits they imposed on imports into the coastal enclave.

All goods still have to be screened before entering Gaza and Israel says some restrictions must remain on items that could be used to make or to store weapons.

This ensures the tunnels are still active, particularly to bring in building materials. Hamas also prefers using the tunnels to smuggle in fuel, thereby avoiding custom dues that are payable on oil crossing via Israel.
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1 ) Mel / USA
13/02/2013 17:42
Would Mussolini have flooded the JEWISH life-line tunnels,in the Warsaw Ghetto,had Hitler told him to?Yes!How would global Jewry have reacted to that ENHANCEMENT of Jewish suffering,as this action will against the Arab suufering,& life-line tunnels of GAZA! It'd seem the pro-Zionist Mubarakite military is STILL in charge of Egypt,& Morsi just a YES-MAN? First,end ISRAEL'S OCCUPATION,& COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENTof 1.7 million Gazan humans,& then they WON'T NEED TUNNELS,or profiteers,to LIVE FREELY!!

2 ) Around / World
13/02/2013 18:05
It is obvious that Zionists penetrated Egyptian government and Muslim Brotherhood.

3 ) tania / usa
13/02/2013 18:23
If you cannot use the israeli crossing use the egyptian one. The tunnels are a direct threat to egyptian security and the egyptians know that.

4 ) Outlier / USA
13/02/2013 23:48
If the tunnels had not been used to smuggle terrorist arms into Gaza for use - by Hamas and its proxies - against Israel, they would not have been closed. Indeed, it is such smuggling that caused regular - via road - trade to be restricted initially.

5 ) USAUSA / USA
14/02/2013 02:36
There are no need for tunnels unless you are getting around Egyptian law. Don't you get it - the Egyptians are seeing their government fuel and food go to Gaza. The Egyptians are poorer than the Gazans and are running out of money, food and fuel. Fuel and fuel are stolen from govt. wharehouses and sold to Gaza which has UNRWA cash and foreign money. This has NOTHING to do with Israel and everything to do with the Egyptian economic situation which is dire

6 ) PA (fr) / Pa
19/02/2013 18:11
Observers see the bias/prejudice: egypt flooded the tunnels. No MSM uproar. Arab lovers try to pin the problem-tail onto Israel-donkey. Prognosis? Egypt is finished. There will be NO state for moon-god worshiping arabs on land belonging to the Great I AM THAT I AM - the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, Who has made it known that "everything written by the prophets, WILL COME TO PASS! Stand aside and watch it happen --

7 ) Human being / Palestine-Gaza
21/02/2013 09:16
Nothing worest than some one taken over your freedom. In Gaza, we are under occupation and blockade. I lived in Gaza for 15 years and refuse to leave eventhough I have no problem of movement anywhere! I still feel the hevey pressure over my chest just feeling what the rest of the population feel,1.7 m people are living in the biggest jail ever. The Gazans have Allah on their side and please for those ones talking about resistance are not living in reality and under occupation.
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