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Egyptian forces kill 4 smugglers near Rafah crossing

April 2, 2016 7:11 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2016 6:36 P.M.)
CAIRO (Ma’an) – Egyptian forces shot and killed four smugglers Saturday in the Egyptian territory south of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Egyptian security sources said.

The sources, who wish to remain unnamed, told Ma'an that border guard officers exchanged gunfire with a group of smugglers trying to access an opening of a tunnel in the area of al-Duhniyya about one kilometer south of the Rafah crossing.

Border guard officers noticed “suspicious movement,” and when they arrive to assess the movement, smugglers opened fire on them from a hole in the ground that appeared to be a smuggling tunnel, the sources added.

The officers returned fire and killed four of the alleged smugglers, while two others managed to escape back inside the tunnel after they had been shot and injured.

The source said the slain could not be identified.

Egyptian army engineers later arrived to the site and blew up the opening to the tunnel.

Until the July 2013 ouster of democratically-elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade, which has been in place since 2007.

Since Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and targeted the tunnels.

Human Rights Watch last year slammed Egypt's military for its campaign against the tunnels, during which the group said some 3,200 families had been evicted from their homes near the border and hundreds of acres of farmland destroyed.

The group said Egypt had failed to provide adequate proof that insurgents were receiving support from the Gaza Strip.

The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remained partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

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