Gaza smuggling tunnel
Gaza smuggling tunnelIsrael news photo: (file)

A delegation of experts from the United States is in Egypt to help wage war on Gaza smuggling tunnels, according to an anonymous Egyptian official quoted by the Arab media outlet Ma'an. The delegation landed in El-Arish on Tuesday, he said.

The experts are now on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafiah. They are under heavy guard, the source reported.

Among the experts are U.S. military officers, who are in the region under the auspices of an American program that provides military aid to Egypt.

The delegates met with Egyptian military experts, who detailed the steps they are currently taking in order to locate and destroy smuggling tunnels under the city. After hearing from the Egyptians, the Americans proposed further steps that could be taken to prevent smuggling, with American aid.

The steps would be funded by the U.S. -- the American Congress has already voted to approve an aid package to Egypt to be used along the narrow Gaza-Egypt border.

Gaza residents have built hundreds of tunnels under the 3.5-kilometer strip of land connecting Gaza to Egypt. The tunnels are used to smuggle in both black-market goods and weapons. The weapons, including bombs, rockets, and according to some, anti-aircraft missiles, are then passed along to various local terrorist groups.

Israel destroyed many of the tunnels during the three week long Cast Lead counterterror offensive in Gaza. However, tunnel operators began rebuilding shortly after the operation concluded, and they claim to have restored their tunnel system to what it was prior to Cast Lead.

After largely ignoring Rafiah's tunnels for months, Israel bombed one tunnel on Tuesday in response to a mortar shell attack the day before. Three smugglers were reportedly killed in the strike.