Egyptian military destroys tunnel from Gaza Strip into Sinai Peninsula

Egypt destroys tunnel, total of 13 tunnels destroyed in 2017 alone; Hamas blames Egypt for the deaths of 3 who were exposed to toxic gas while repairing the destroyed tunnel

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Egypt destroyed a smuggling tunnel from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, Hamas accusing the Egyptian military for three deaths after Hamas militants inhaled toxic gas while trying to repair the tunnel.

The Egyptian military located and destroyed the tunnel that went 20 meters underground. The tunnel, likely used for smuggling weapons, had oxygen tanks and was wired for outside communication.

Hamas responded to the deaths stating that there is “no justification for the use of such dangerous methods against civilians under siege.”

In January of 2017, Egypt destroyed 12 smuggling tunnels from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptian military confirming that all the tunnels had been destroyed. Just a few weeks after, a Hamas militant was killed during a tunnel collapse over the weekend, the third death from a tunnel collapse in January alone.

Egypt, like Israel, is consistently confronted with terror threats from Gaza’s tunnels, which are used for smuggling of goods, weapons and people. Egypt reportedly demolished dozens of tunnels in 2016, Hamas reporting that 21 of their militants were killed in the demolitions.

Israel last detected and destroyed a terror tunnel from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory in August of 2016 after a tunnel was found and destroyed previously in April. The tunnels, both around 30 meters underground, were neutralized by the IDF. During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, the IDF destroyed Hamas’s terror tunnel networks, destroying 34 tunnels. The tunnels were used for smuggling weapons and materials for creating rockets as well as for infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory.

Last summer the IDF and Israel’s Defense Ministry announced plans by Israeli defense establishments to construct an underground concrete wall along the Gaza Strip border with Israel as a solution to Hamas’s ongoing terror tunnel network. A concrete wall will be constructed along the 61-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip, the wall to go several meters underground.

The wall would be Israel’s third defense barrier to be constructed on the border with the Gaza Strip. The first barrier was constructed post-Oslo Accords in 1994, the second following the disengagement from the Strip in 2005. During the disengagement, over 8,500 Israeli, Jewish citizens were pulled from their homes as an effort for resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip was then taken over by Hamas. Since then, Israel has been subject to rocket attacks and terror tunnels into Israeli territory for over a decade.