Egypt to Destroy Gaza Tunnels

Egypt is embarking on a campaign to close the border tunnels that run from Rafah to the Gaza Strip. A massive security deployment in North Sinai is responding to the deteriorating security situation there, which Cairo blames on criminals from the tunnels.

al-monitor An armored vehicle patrols the border with Gaza Strip during a security sweep of the Sinai in Rafah September 12, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih.

Topics covered

tunnels, smuggling, sinai, rafah

Nov 9, 2012

Security sources have revealed that the security services in North Sinai governorate are preparing to destroy the most dangerous underground tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in the town of Rafah.

The location of these tunnels was determined via extremely accurate intelligence and investigations. The sources noted that the extensive security operation to demolish the tunnels will start in a few days.

The sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the security services are preparing to carry out the attack on the criminal outposts located on the outskirts of the towns of Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah with the assistance of members of the Special Operations Forces and Special Military Forces. Heavy weaponry will be used to crack down on militants wanted by the security forces.

On the ground, additional reinforcements have reached North Sinai, including army and police forces, to address the state of lawlessness in the governorate.

Witnesses told Al-Masry Al-Youm that 14 armored vehicles belonging to the armed forces arrived at the Security Directorate of North Sinai yesterday [Nov. 8] evening, accompanied by over 20 microbuses carrying members of the armed forces, three soldier carriers and police cars carrying officers and soldiers sent by the Interior Ministry.

Dozens of police cars were seen patrolling the area of Jisr al-Wadi in the city of Al-Arish, where policemen were attacked last week as a number of fully-armed soldiers deployed at the bank of Wadi al-Arish.

Some tribal chieftains in North Sinai said that the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are behind the phenomenon of lawlessness in the governorate. They demanded the closure of the tunnels that are operating at full capacity, particularly the tunnels through which individuals pass to and from the Gaza Strip, which increase chaos and diminish security.

They added that security will not return to the Sinai as long as the state of lawlessness is being addressed by "painkillers," rather than conclusive solutions to the problems. They stressed that Sinai today is out of security control.

In other news, Israeli companies issued a decree banning Nigerian tourists visiting Jerusalem from heading to Sinai from its territories due to the recent events in Sinai. A large number of tourist companies that have operated such trips for years were affected by the decree. The number of Nigerian tourists who visit Nuweiba, Taba and Israel reach nearly 40,000 a year.

Sami Salman, head of the Nuweiba and Taba Investors Association, called on Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou to intervene. Egypt did not ban tourists of different nationalities from visiting Sinai to head to Jerusalem since the areas of Nuweiba and Taba are safe and did not witness security incidents.

Salman said that they were surprised to see Israeli companies preventing Nigerian tourists from visiting the Sinai, especially Nuweiba, Taba and St. Catherine, since the beginning of November.

Jasser Riad, board member of the Chamber of Travel and Tourism Companies and Agencies, said that the decision had a negative impact on many tourism companies operating in this field, as many companies depend on this type of tourism.

Jasser called for swift intervention by Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou and the Egyptian government to save the situation and cancel the decision.

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