Abbas Supports Egypt Crackdown on Gaza Tunnels, ‘Punishing’ Hamas Members

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he supported Egypt’s crackdown on tunnels linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula and any other action the country took to protect itself from militants, according to a media report Thursday.

“We have supported all the precautionary measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to close the tunnels and stop the trafficking of arms and the passage of people between Gaza and the Sinai,” Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi due to be published on Saturday, extracts of which were published by MENA news agency.

“We will continue to support any measure protecting Egypt from danger,” Abbas was quoted as saying.

Since the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army, the country’s new authorities have accused Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of conspiring with Hamas.

The Egyptian military has stepped up the destruction of tunnels from Gaza that it says are used by the Palestinian movement to smuggle arms, food and money.

The army says it has destroyed more than 1,600 such tunnels since Morsi’s ouster.

Egypt has also begun setting up a buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip, which will see hundreds of homes demolished, in order to prevent infiltration and arms smuggling.

Cairo also accuses Hamas of helping militants carry out a spate of deadly attacks against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula recently.

“If it is proved that Hamas members are implicated in terrorist attacks against Egypt, it has the right to go after them and punish them,” Abbas said, according to MENA.

Hamas has always rejected the allegations.

Oxfam says more than 40 percent of the overall Gaza population is jobless and that 80 percent live on humanitarian aid.

Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006 after Hamas rose to power in democratic elections.

(Agencies via Ma’an – www.maannews.org)

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