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Egypt rallies see slowdown in Gaza tunnel trade

June 30, 2013 6:15 P.M. (Updated: July 17, 2013 11:30 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Increasing numbers of smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza have become inactive as mass political rallies take place to mark the first anniversary of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi's inauguration, traders told Ma'an.

Abu Mohamed, who operates a smuggling tunnel from Gaza to Egypt, says that Egyptian security forces have intensified their presence along the Egyptian border, all but paralyzing the tunnel trade.

He used to smuggle 40 tons of goods daily through the tunnel he controls, but now operations have come to a standstill.

Hamas security forces in Gaza have also stepped up operations on the Palestinian side of Rafah in an effort to control the entry of illegal drugs, such as Tramadol, into Gaza.

The presence of security forces is also aimed to prevent any interference in Egypt's internal affairs, Hamas security officer Tarek Abu Hashim told Ma'an.

Thousands of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's opponents protested on Sunday's first anniversary of his inauguration, determined to oust him as his Islamist supporters vowed to defend his legitimacy to the end.

Marchers were due to set off at 5 pm for the Ittihadiya presidential palace, close to a neighborhood where thousands of Morsi supporters vowed to stage a counter-demonstration.

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.

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.
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