CAIRO: The Cabinet approved Wednesday a presidential draft article to criminalize the act of drilling tunnels at the state borders amid security efforts to combat smuggling tunnels at Rafah-Gaza borders, and punish the offense with life in prison.
Furthermore, whoever is proved to have known about tunnels or the aforementioned acts and did not inform the authorities will face the same penalty. According to the new article, the court will confiscate the buildings and tools used in the crime.
Hundreds of smuggling tunnels have been uncovered by security forces along the Rafah-Gaza border, amid an ongoing security campaign in North Sinai against fighters launching attacks at armed and police personnel in the Peninsula.
A 1km-wide buffer zone was announced after an October 2014 deadly attack killed more than 30 military personnel, and required the demolishing of around 1,110 houses and the displacement of more than 1,000 families, whom the state announced it would compensate.
Since then, the armed forces announced uncovering hundreds of smuggling tunnels. Some 240 tunnels were discovered with the last four months, according to Youm7.
The longest discovered tunnel so far was announced March 29 with a length of 2.8 km; it was found passing under three homes in Rafah city near the borders with Gaza.
The 2.8 Km tunnel reportedly exceeded the determined sphere of the buffer zone, prompting the authorities to study expanding the width of the buffer zone to combat smuggling tunnels.
Used for smuggling persons, equipments and goods, the discovered tunnels are destroyed either by flooding, dynamite and explosives or heavy equipment.
Additional reporting by Hend Mokhtar and Nourhan Magdi