Egypt floods Gaza tunnels to cut Palestinian lifeline

Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:38am EST
 

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years.

Reuters reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water.

"The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels," said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 meters (yards) from the border fence.

An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago.

"We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells," he said, declining to be named.

Dozens of tunnels had been destroyed since last August following the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence.

Cairo said some of the gunmen had crossed into Egypt via the tunnels - a charge denied by Palestinians - and ordered an immediate crackdown.   Continued...

 
A Palestinian works at the entrance of a smuggling tunnel dug beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem