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Egypt builds trench along Gaza border to prevent smuggling

June 22, 2015 1:03 P.M. (Updated: June 22, 2015 1:06 P.M.)
A file photo of the Rafah crossing.(AFP)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- The Egyptian military has constructed a trench along the border of Rafah to prevent smugglers from operating in the area, the army said.

The trench is 20 meters deep and 10 meters wide and is located two kilometers from the border with Gaza outside of Rafah city.

The new infrastructure -- part of a larger buffer zone being constructed in the area -- is intended to prevent smugglers from driving their vehicles to the opening of tunnels along the border.

A military official said that the army plans to expand the trench and install watchtowers along its length.

Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in February 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 meters in rural areas.

After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, however, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.

Hamas, which denies Egyptian accusations, has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.

Deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas come at a high price to Gaza's 1.8 million residents for whom the smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007.
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