Egypt Detains 15 over Rockets Bound for Gaza

Egyptian security forces detained 15 people on Friday over accusations they helped in smuggling rockets into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip via border tunnels, security sources claimed.

The sources said authorities had confiscated the outer shells of 60 rockets from a metal workshop in the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayed, near the closed Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

Those held include the owner of the workshop and other workers and drivers who are accused of taking part in a scheme to manufacture rocket parts and send them to the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The sources did not specify whom the rocket parts were intended for in Gaza.

A network of tunnels links Egypt with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, which Israel blockaded after Hamas won the parliamentary elections in January 2006.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza have launched primitive rockets, made in Gaza, and more sophisticated Grad rockets into Israel.

But the tunnels are used on a regular basis for smuggling food and fuel. Israel, which launched a massive 22-day offensive on Gaza in December and January, says weapons are brought through the tunnels. The Gaza offensive had killed over 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,500 others. Thirteen Israelis have been killed during the war as well.

Egypt has taken increasingly robust measures to close the tunnels. Egypt also limits movement through its border crossing with the territory.

On Wednesday, Egypt’s public prosecutor announced the arrest of 49 people accused of having links with the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah and of plotting attacks in Egypt.

A security official and the suspects’ lawyer told AFP they were also suspected of running arms to Hamas.

Police found quantities of explosives in homes they had rented or bought in the Rafah border town, a security official claimed.

(Agencies and PC)

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