BEIRUT

Middle East

Hamas urges Egypt to open tunnels

A Palestinian man helps a smuggler to ascend a tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on September 30, 2012. AFP PHOTO/SAID KHATIB

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas movement has staged a small demonstration criticizing an Egyptian crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels.

Several dozen people participated in Sunday's demonstration in Rafah, a town straddling the Gaza-Egypt border.

Smuggling tunnels have been the lifeblood of the Gaza economy since Hamas seized power five years ago and Israel imposed a blockade on the territory.

Egypt has often turned a blind eye to the smuggling. But Hamas says in recent weeks, Egypt has closed about 80 percent of the roughly 450 tunnels, and recently all shipments to Rafah have stopped.

The move is a response to an attack by Islamic militants that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.

Hamas official Yousef Farhat urged Egypt to "stop its campaign against the tunnels" or find an alternative route for trade.

 

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