Egypt’s military has reported the virtual destruction of the once-massive smuggling tunnel network to the Gaza Strip.
Security sources said the Egyptian Army has destroyed 97 percent of the tunnels that connect the Sinai Peninsula to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. They said only a handful of tunnels were still operating under the supervision of the military.
“The tunnel smuggling is essentially over,” a source said. “There are no weapons being transferred to Gaza.”
The sources said the military was allowing the operation of five tunnels that span the divided city of Rafah. They said the operations were meant to avoid massive shortages of staples and fuel.
The Gaza tunnel network, controlled by Hamas, has been deemed the most important element in the massive arms smuggling that took place until mid-2013. The network, which contained as many as 1,500 tunnels, facilitated the flow of everything from anti-tank missiles to medium-range rockets.
The sources said the military and security forces have kept the 14-kilometer border under persistent surveillance. They said the military was operating a one-kilometer buffer zone to stop infiltration from the Gaza Strip.
The destruction of the tunnel network has not been confirmed by Israel.
But Hamas officials acknowledged that smuggling sharply declined since Egypt’s CI campaign in August 2013.
The sources said the CI campaign was meant to kill or capture the leadership of the Al Qaida-aligned insurgency in Sinai. They said much of the leadership was believed to have fled Sinai, with the military’s second phase focused on second-tier commanders.