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Egyptian army destroys 12 tunnels along Gaza border

Jan. 2, 2017 3:52 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 2, 2017 4:58 P.M.)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- Egyptian border forces on Sunday “uncovered” and destroyed 12 tunnels along the borders of the northern Sinai and Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifae.

It remained unclear exactly how the tunnels were destroyed.

Four Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip were left dead last month when Egyptian authorities deliberately flooded a tunnel with seawater.

Palestinians in Gaza have relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border since 2007, when Israel imposed a crippling military blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas took control there.

Until the July 2013 ouster of Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the small Palestinian territory.

Since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.

Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting the insurgents, allegations Hamas strongly denies.

Human Rights Watch slammed Egypt's military for its campaign against the tunnels in 2015, 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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