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Egypt army destroys 13 more Gaza tunnels

July 27, 2014 8:13 P.M. (Updated: July 29, 2014 4:11 P.M.)
CAIRO (AFP) -- Egypt's army said Sunday it has destroyed 13 more tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, taking to 1,639 the overall number it has laid waste to.

The destruction will potentially aggravate the economic and humanitarian situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has witnessed a major drop in living standards since Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched a campaign to destroy the tunnels last summer.

Over the eight years since Israel imposed an economic blockade on the Strip due to the victory of Hamas in elections, the tunnels have provided a major lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.7 million people.

Since last summer, however, Cairo has poured troops into the peninsula to counter a rising insurgency since the ouster of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi last year, and its security operation involves the destruction of these tunnels.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is the main power in Gaza, reportedly uses the tunnels to smuggle arms, food and money into the blockaded coastal enclave.

Israel has been waging a military offensive on Gaza since July 8, and it launched a ground assault on July 17 aimed at destroying a network of tunnels inside the Gaza Strip.

The assault has killed more than 1,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom have been civilians.

Ties between Hamas and Cairo have deteriorated since the Egyptian army deposed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Hamas is an affiliate of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo also accuses of Hamas of being involved in militant attacks inside Egypt, which have multiplied since Morsi was toppled. Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have denied any connection to the attacks, which have been claimed by Wahhabi militant groups.

Militant groups say their attacks are in retaliation for a police crackdown on Morsi's supporters. The crackdown has seen more than 1,400 people killed in attacks on demonstrators and street clashes.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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