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Egypt 'destroys 1,370 Gaza smuggling tunnels,' says army

March 12, 2014 4:40 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2014 1:00 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- Egypt's military said Wednesday it has destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip, as Cairo's ties remain sour with Hamas.

Ties took a turn for the worse after the military ousted president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The statement did not say when the tunnels were destroyed, but the military has poured troops into the adjacent Sinai Peninsula to counter militancy that has grown since July.

The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

But Hamas and other militant groups reportedly use their own more secret tunnels to bring in arms and money.

Gaza has been under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2006, after militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid. The blockade has led to frequent humanitarian crises, and has prevented Palestinians from fleeing the area during Israeli bombardments.

Egypt accuses Hamas of having colluded with the Brotherhood in carrying out "terror attacks" on its territory in the past few years.

Dozens of alleged Hamas militants have been named among scores of defendants, including Morsi, in trials for organizing jailbreaks and attacking police stations during the 2011 revolt that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Hamas has denied accusations by Egyptian officials that it is involved in fighting in the Sinai Peninsula.

Last week, Egypt's Day Seven news website reported that Egyptian authorities plan to revoke the citizenship of 13,757 Hamas members for being "affiliated to an offshoot of the terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood."

Cairo's new military-installed authorities launched a deadly crackdown on protests by supporters of Morsi, killing in excess of 1,400 people.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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