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Egypt seizes explosives en route to Sinai smugglers

June 2, 2013 1:17 P.M. (Updated: June 3, 2013 5:20 P.M.)
SHARM AL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities seized one ton of explosives destined for smugglers in the Sinai on Saturday, police told Ma'an.

The explosives were earmarked for the destruction of rocky mountains to make way for smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip, police said.

The munition was found hidden in cartons in the boot of a car from Cairo heading to the Ahmad Hamadi tunnel, and was stopped by police for inspection.

The driver told police he had intended to transfer the explosives to smugglers in Sinai. The driver was detained, police said.

In February, Egypt began a crackdown on Gaza's underground tunnel system, pumping sewage over fears that they are being used to smuggle weapons and fighters into the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Gaza's tunnelers told Reuters in March that nearly 60 percent of the estimated 1,000 smuggling routes under the border had been closed.

The Hamas government in Gaza said last week it was willing to close down all smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border once a commercial crossing opens, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"We do not want the tunnels in the first place," said Ghazi Hamad. "They burden citizens and cause hundreds of fatalities, but they are essential because there is no alternative."

"The tunnels issue can be resolved by finding a solution that balances the security needs of Egypt and the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip through lawful commercial transactions monitored by both," he added in a statement.

The statement followed seizure of half a ton of diesel headed to the Gaza Strip by Egyptian police, en route to one of the smuggling tunnels.

The one crossing into the Gaza Strip from Egypt -- Rafah -- is a passenger only crossing. On exceptional occasions it has been opened for the transfer of commercial goods, prompting critics to accuse Egypt of complicity in Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The tunnel industry thrived under Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, providing a lifeline by smuggling goods into the besieged enclave, ranging from cars, building materials to fast food.

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