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Egyptian army says destroyed 37 cross-border tunnels from Gaza to Sinai in 2018

Egyptian forces man a checkpoint outside Sharm el-Sheikh airport in the Sinai Peninsula on November 11, 2015
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (AFP/File)

The Egyptian military on Thursday released a statement claiming it has destroyed 37 cross-border tunnels between its territory in the Sinai Peninsula and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

According to the statement, nearly 20,000 people have been detained for illegally crossing into Egypt through the area.

On the border with Gaza, North Sinai is the epicenter of an Islamist insurgency that erupted following the deposition of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, ousted by Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt in recent years has built a buffer zone along the border to stem the flow of militants and enacted a crackdown on extremism.

Just last week, Mubarak, asked current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for “permission” to disclose sensitive information in the retrial of Morsi that included new evidence about the use of tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (AFP)

Toppled in 2011 after mass protests against his nearly 30-year-rule, Mubarak took the witness stand in a Cairo court to testify about jailbreaks allegedly orchestrated by Morsi and other members of his Muslim Brotherhood group during the uprising.

Prosecutors say they were sprung from prison with the help of the Palestinian group Hamas and operatives from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

The former president acknowledged that at the time, he had received information from his intelligence chief on the infiltration of militants from the Gaza Strip to the country's east during the uprising.

"General Omar Suleiman informed me on January 29 (2011) that 800 armed militants infiltrated through the border," he said, adding that militants from Hamas group, assisted by North Sinai residents, used underground tunnels to cross.

Mubarak said the militants had attacked police stations, killed security personnel and helped spring Morsi and other senior Brotherhood members from detention.

In 2015, a court sentenced Morsi to death over the case but Egypt's top appeals court overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial.

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