The ruling Hamas terrorist organization reportedly ordered operators on Wednesday to shut down the hundreds of smuggler tunnels that honeycomb the borders between Gaza and Egypt, according to foreign media. However, spokesmen for the terrorist group later denied the report as a rumor,
Hamas explained that it simply has agreed to increase supervision over traffic in the tunnels due to the urgent warning issued Tuesday by the Israeli government regarding a terror cell operating in the Sinai Peninsula. The alert ordered citizens vacationing in the area to immediately return to Israel, citing concrete intelligence that Arab terrorists were hoping to kidnap or murder Israelis in the area.
It added that the tunnel smuggling system is operating as usual. A variety of products are smuggled in to the Gaza region, home to some 1.5 million Palestinian Authority Arab residents.
Weapons and terrorists are also smuggled in through the tunnels, as was kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit after Hamas terrorists carried out a cross-border attack at his base near the Kerem Shalom crossing in June 2006. Shalit, whose whereabouts and condition remain unknown, is still believed to be alive and in Gaza..
A recent report focused on the importance of the tunnel industry to the local economy; entire new cars have been “imported” through the underground system, which has been expanded to resemble a somewhat primitive mini-subway system.
However, Egypt has been taking steps to block the activity with construction of a steel barrier being sunk deep beneath the ground at the border with Gaza.
Egypt also announced Wednesday that the Rafiah crossing would be closed to travelers indefinitely, for an “indefinite period of time.” The PA-linked Ma'an news agency reported that the crossing usually is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays for passage by Gaza medical patients for treatment in Egypt. Officials gave no explanation for the decision.