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Egyptian Crackdown on Gaza Tunnels Hurting Hamas

21 Jul 2013

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Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are reeling from another devastating blockade but this time they are blaming Egypt, the neighbouring Arab power they once hoped would end their isolation, rather than their old foe Israel.

In a few weeks of digging, dynamiting and drenching, Cairo's troops have destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels that ran under the Egypt-Gaza border and which had provided the cramped coastal enclave with commercial goods as well as weaponry.

The Islamist Hamas government, which taxes much of the traffic through the underground passages, has been hit hard by the losses. Ordinary Palestinians, many of them dependent on U.N. aid handouts, have seen prices for staple goods skyrocket, reports Reuters.

"There is a difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza because of the Egyptian measures on the borders," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "Most of the tunnels were demolished and the few that remain open are paralysed."

He likened the crisis to 2007, when Israel, responding to the Hamas takeover of Gaza in a brief civil war with Western-backed Palestinian rivals, clamped down on the territory.

Israel still maintains a strict control of all imports into Gaza to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which refuses to recognise the Jewish state and has often clashed with it. Under international accords, merchandise cannot be imported via Egypt.

Cairo mobilised against the tunnels after jihadi militants in the Egyptian Sinai desert killed 16 of its soldiers a year ago. Egypt said some of the gunmen had slipped into Sinai from nearby Gaza, an accusation denied by Hamas.

The tunnel crackdown has gathered pace since the Egyptian military removed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi from power this month. Mursi's short-lived rule had already disappointed Hamas, since despite their shared ideology he appeared in no rush to open the Gaza border.

With Mursi now gone, Hamas openly despairs - not least as it has also parted ways with insurgency-hit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who had long hosted the Palestinian faction's foreign headquarters, and lost key funding from Damascus's ally Iran.

Tags: News, Africa, HAMAS, Egypt, GAZA, TUNNELS

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