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Egyptian Court Orders Government to Destroy Hamas’s Smuggling Tunnels

An Egyptian court has declared that the smuggling tunnels linking the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip constitute a threat to the country’s national security. As such…

A Cairo court ruled on Tuesday the government must destroy all tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, removing a route for smuggled weapons but also a lifeline for Palestinians… President Mohamed Mursi’s national security adviser Essam Haddad has said Egypt will not tolerate the two-way flow of smuggled arms through the tunnels that is destabilising its Sinai peninsula.

Cairo’s Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government has long been ambivalent about the labyrinth of smuggling tunnels underneath the Sinai. Their existence is a major boon to Hamas — an offshoot of the Brotherhood — which generates income by taxing the tunnels and uses them to import weapons.

On the other hand, those transferred weapons are not all aimed at Israel. Jihadists have leveraged the freedom of movement between the Sinai and Gaza to target Egyptian troops stationed in the region. The court motion to shut down the tunnels, brought by Egyptian lawyer Wael Hamdy, was filed in the context of an Islamist attack last August that killed 16 Egyptian troops near the Gaza border. Egyptian forces already flooded some of the tunnels earlier in the month.

Egyptian authorities also complain that that the tunnels are used to smuggle vehicles stolen from the Egyptian citizens.

The ruling on Hamdy’s petition comes alongside the court’s rejection of another request, this one calling upon judges to rescind the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement. The court found that it did not have the authority to overturn binding peace agreements such as the Camp David Accords.

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr]