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Egypt forces say 225 Gaza tunnels found under border

Feb. 17, 2013 10:29 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 4:52 P.M.)
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian forces have discovered over 225 smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip, a military spokesperson said Sunday.

Egyptian military spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Mohamed Ali told Ma'an that the army is continuing with efforts to close down the network of underground tunnels.

"Each tunnel has several exits, including inside Egyptian houses, and thus can be difficult to detect. There may therefore be as many as over 500 tunnels," he added.

Earlier this week, Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

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

One tunnel owner said that 150-200 tunnels had been closed since an attack in Sinai last August, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead.

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.

Israel imposed its blockade for what it called security reasons in 2007, although human rights groups have called it a form of collective punishment.

The tunnel network developed as a vital source of goods under Israel's blockade of the coastal strip and Egyptian restrictions on the official Rafah crossing point.

Reuters contributed to this report
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