The demolition of tunnels under the Rafah border by the Egyptian army has created serious shortages in the besieged Gaza Strip. Army personnel using heavy equipment have been reinforced to create a large military presence along the border.
Although around 10 per cent of the tunnels are still working, they are under enormous pressure with strict security conditions to prevent arms smuggling. Severe shortages of fuel and construction materials are already causing problems for the Palestinians.
The closure of the tunnels has been prompted by a series of deadly attacks against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula for which Palestinians, wrongly they claim, have been blamed.
The Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank has praised Egypt’s interim government for the measure. In a statement posted on Facebook, spokesman Moneer Al-Jaghoub blamed Hamas and the Palestinian government in Gaza for the turmoil in Sinai and said that the Islamic Resistance Movement should stop “interfering” in Egypt’s internal affairs. Alternatively, suggested Al-Jaghoub, senior officials should hold a press conference to distance themselves from what is going on across the border.
The Hamas leadership has denounced repeatedly all violence in Sinai and told Egypt that it is ready for any security arrangements to prevent such attacks occurring. It pledged that if any Palestinian from Gaza is confirmed to have taken part in such attacks they will be imprisoned.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has insisted that his government respects Egyptian sovereignty and does not get involved in its internal matters. “Egypt is and will continue to be our strategic depth,” he said in the wake of the coup which ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad