Abbas Supports Egypt's Crackdown on Tunnels

PA Chairman supports Egypt's crackdown on tunnels linking Gaza to Sinai - a crackdown which includes an expulsion of Gazans.

Ben Ariel ,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
STR/Flash 90

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday said he supported Egypt's crackdown on tunnels linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula and any other action the country took to protect itself from terrorism, AFP reported.

"We have supported all the precautionary measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to close the tunnels and stop the trafficking of arms and the passage of people between Gaza and the Sinai," Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi due to be published on Saturday, and of which excerpts were published by the state MENA news agency.

"We will continue to support any measure protecting Egypt from danger," Abbas was quoted as saying.

Since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian army, the country's new authorities have accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of conspiring with Hamas.

The Egyptian military has stepped up the destruction of tunnels from Gaza that it says are used by Hamas to smuggle arms, food and money.

The army says it has destroyed more than 1,600 such tunnels since Morsi's ouster. As part of its crackdown on Hamas and other terrorist groups, Egypt has also begun setting up a buffer zone along its border with Gaza.

The buffer zone plan includes the expulsion of residents in southern Gaza from their homes and having them demolished by dynamite and bulldozers - an expulsion which has largely been ignored by the world, except for a condemnation by Amnesty International several weeks ago.

The Egyptian expulsion to create a buffer zone follows lethal terrorist attacks on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai last month, and the ensuing crackdown on smuggling tunnels from Gaza, by which Hamas reportedly armed the attackers, has already seen hundreds of homes destroyed.

Egypt initially said it would wipe out all homes to a depth of 500 meters(over 1,640 feet) all along the 13 kilometer (over eight mile) border. Later it doubled that depth to 1 kilometer (0.62 miles).

"If it is proved that Hamas members are implicated in terrorist attacks against Egypt, it has the right to go after them and punish them," Abbas said, according to MENA.