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Egypt destroyed 6 Gaza smuggling tunnels in the span of 2 weeks

Feb. 9, 2017 11:18 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2017 4:30 P.M.)
(File)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- The Egyptian army claimed on Wednesday to have destroyed six tunnels between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip in the span of two weeks earlier this year.

Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said that six tunnels were uncovered and destroyed at the border between Gaza and the North Sinai between Jan. 17 and Feb. 4.

The announcement came a day before an alleged airstrike killed two Palestinians and injured five others in a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday.

While Palestinian officials said that the tunnel had been targeted by Israel, the Israeli army denied involvement in the strike.

Earlier this year, al-Rifai stated that Egyptian forces had destroyed 12 tunnels during an unspecified time period at the end of 2016.

Four Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip were left dead in December when Egyptian authorities deliberately flooded a tunnel with seawater.

Palestinians in Gaza have relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border since 2007, when Israel imposed a crippling military blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas took control there.

Until the July 2013 ouster of Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the small Palestinian territory.

Since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.

Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting the insurgents, allegations Hamas strongly denies.

The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remained partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
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