Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Fourteen Gazans missing after Egypt floods tunnels near Rafah
Gazan Civil Defense rescue teams on Tuesday morning were battling to save the lives of 14 Palestinians who went missing inside a smuggling tunnel when Egyptian military forces flooded it with seawater.
Muhammad al-Meidana, a Civil Defense official, told Ma'an that rescue teams had been able to save the lives of seven tunnel workers, but that contact was lost with 14 others, who were now missing.
Smuggling tunnels that pass beneath the Egyptian border have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants since Israel imposed a crippling siege in 2007. Egypt has sought to destroy the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai against anti-regime militants, which Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting, although Hamas strongly denies the accusations.
The Palestinian Chronicle reported that the Egyptian army started on Monday to pump large amounts of sea water into large pipes that have recently been extended across the border connecting Gaza and Egypt in an attempt to destroy tunnels used to smuggle goods into the besieged Strip.
One of the tunnel owners, Abu Kohammed, told Anadolu Agency: “The Egyptian army started pumping large amounts of water from the Mediterranean Sea into the tunnels through large underground pipes that have hundreds of holes in them. These pipes were extended in the past in a trench that extends across the borders between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.”
Abu Mohammad also explained that large amounts of water flooded the tunnels that were used to smuggle food, medicine and construction materials from Egypt to Gaza. This caused some tunnel owners to use large pumps to get the water out of the tunnels in order to prevent them from caving in. However, he doubted that the tunnel owners would be able to keep up with the amount of water pumped in by the army.