Last updated: 3 September, 2011

Egypt cracks down on Gaza tunnels

Egypt’s military has started to close smuggling tunnels to Gaza, witnesses said on Saturday, amid Israeli warnings of plans by Gazan militants to attack the Jewish state through Egyptian territory.

Witnesses along the 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) border with the Islamist Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave said soldiers had begun using earth-moving equipment to seal tunnel openings with rocks and sand.

The military also warned border residents to close any tunnel entrances in their homes to avoid punishment, witnesses said.

The tunnels, used to smuggle everything from cars and cattle to weapons, are estimated to number in the hundreds. Egypt has constructed an underground steel wall along part of the border to cut off the tunnels, with limited success.

There was no immediate comment from Egypt’s military, which is overseeing a sweeping campaign in the Sinai peninsula to uproot Islamist militants behind attacks on police and a gas pipeline to Israel.

Israel’s army has beefed up its deployment along the border with Egypt after intelligence warnings of more attacks like last month’s ambushes in which gunmen who slipped in from Egypt’s Sinai killed eight Israelis.