Seven Arab tunnel diggers were rescued by a search operation in Rafah city on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip Thursday, after Egyptian authorities had flooded a tunnel where they were working, Ma’an reported, citing Hamas security sources. Gazan authorities are searching for one worker who is believed to be still stuck inside the tunnel.
The tunnel was flooded by Egyptian authorities who pumped seawater into it. Last month, according to Ma’an, the Egyptians destroyed another tunnel in the same manner, but no injuries were reported.
Gaza Arabs have always relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border, but since the 2007 Hamas takeover of the Strip, when Israel imposed a military blockade on Gaza, they became a vital source of supplies, both civilian and military.
Since the ousting of the Muslim Brothers regime in Egypt, the new masters of the Nile have made a point of destroying and flooding hundreds of the tunnels as a security measure in the northern Sinai against Islamist terrorists who attack Egyptian police and military personnel there. The fact that Hamas, whom Egypt considers a collaborator with the previous regime, also suffers in the process is a nice bonus.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said last month that some of the tunnels are being flooded at Israel’s request, noting that Egyptian and Israeli ties are “better than ever.”
The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remain partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.