CAIRO: Border guards of the Second Field Army demolished 13 tunnels under the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, bringing the total number of tunnels ruined to 1,639, military spokesperson Mohamed Samir announced Saturday evening on the Egyptian Armed Forces’ official Facebook page.
They also seized a truck carrying 68 packs of carcinogens agricultural pesticides inscribed with Hebrew writing, the statement read.
Border guards of the Third Field Army also seized three trucks carrying 187 kilograms of the drug bango plant and 60 kilograms of raw opium.
Tunnel trade is almost worth $10 billion a year, including smuggling of all kinds of goods and commodities, former director of the Armed Forces Center for Research and Strategic Studies Hossam Sweilem told The Cairo Post Sunday.
Sweilem said the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas formed a committee to follow up on the affairs of the tunnels as well as determine the appropriate tax on each smuggled goods and collecting these taxes from the owners of these tunnels. This committee is responsible for granting licenses required to open new tunnels.
“The tunnel trade became the major source of income and wealth for Gaza’s government treasury,” Sweilem said.
Hamas is using their tunneling to smuggle weapons, goods, funds, natural gas, diesel, cigarettes, and cement, Youm7 reported Wednesday. Economists anticipated that over 15 percent of Hamas’ budget came from the tunnel trade, in addition to the taxes imposed on goods and funds received by Hamas from Iran and Syria.
Many of alleged Hamas militants have been arrested, including ousted President Mohamed Morsi, in trials for organizing jailbreaks and storming police stations during the January 25 Reovlution in 2011 that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.
As a part of his effort to protect Egypt from all those who harm its security, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree to toughen up punishment against anyone involved in digging tunnels or constructing roads and routes on the border to be used for purposes that are against the law, Presidential Spokesman Ehab Badawy said on July 3.
“Rigorous imprisonment is the penalty for those digging tunnels around border areas,” the new decree stated.
Since the ousting Morsi in July, Egypt-Hamas ties have been strained since armed forces have destroyed smuggling tunnels at the Gaza-Egypt border.
Cairo has accused Hamas of ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in carrying out terror attacks in the past few years but Hamas has repeatedly denied all accusations.
On March 4, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned any activities of Hamas within Egyptian territories.
“Hamas has no existence in Egypt,” Hamas leader and deputy head of foreign affairs Ghazi Hamad told The Cairo Post via telephone in March.