In two separate operations on Wednesday morning, Egyptian troops stationed along the Gaza-Egypt border raided underground tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, seizing control of 17 of the tunnels and sealing their entrances.
The Egyptian authorities say that the attacks on tunnels will continue as part of an ongoing campaign to end the illicit smuggling of supplies into the besieged Gaza Strip.
Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, one third of whom are children under 15, has been under siege since 2007, when the elected government of the Palestinian people took their seats, and the Israeli government declared the Palestinian Authority in Gaza to be illegitimate. Israeli and Egyptian authorities then increased the already severe restrictions on imports to and exports from the Gaza Strip. They sealed all borders, preventing Palestinians and internationals from entering or leaving Gaza, and have prevented the entry of even the most basic necessities of life, apart from a small trickle of occasional aid.
This siege has frozen the economy of Gaza, and forced its population to be dependent on international aid. It has also created a lucrative trade using smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, which has facilitated the entry of lifesaving medicine, food and fuel.
The Egyptian government, under pressure from their Israeli allies, declared recently that they would crack down on the tunnel trade, and have begun construction of an underground wall that would be impossible to penetrate.