Egyptian security arrests 3 Palestinians crossing Rafah border
The Rafah border crossing with Gaza - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Three Palestinians were arrested on Saturday after they had attempted to sneak into Egypt through an illegal tunnel under the Rafah crossing during a security crackdown on North Sinai, Youm7 reported.

The arrested Palestinian men allegedly possessed $700, 600 EGP, two mobile phones and fake IDs, Youm7 reported.

Illegal tunnels are usually used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the Gaza Strip, but the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement Hamas reportedly digs new tunnels to secretly bring in weapons and money, former director of the Armed Forces Center for Research and Strategic Studies Hossam Sweilem told The Cairo Post in July.

Sweilem added that tunnel trade is almost worth $10 billion a year, and includes smuggling of all kinds of goods and commodities.

Many of the alleged Hamas militants have been arrested and stand trials for organizing jailbreaks and storming police stations during the January 25 Revolution in 2011 that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

As part of his efforts to “protect Egypt from all those who harm its security,” President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree to toughen 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.

On July 5, President Sisi announced in an interview with media personalities during the Presidential election campaign that the Egyptian Army destroyed 1,200 out of 1,300 tunnels in Sinai.

Since the ousting of Morsi in July, Egypt-Hamas ties have been strained, since armed forces have been destroying their smuggling tunnels at the Gaza-Egypt border.

Cairo has accused Hamas of ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and 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.

Additional Reporting by Mohamed Hussein.

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