Hamas orders tunnels shutGaza's Hamas rulers have ordered residents to shut smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt indefinitely, cutting off the underground weapons flow as well the economic lifeline for 1.5 million Palestinians in the impoverished territory, residents and tunnel operators said Wednesday.
Hamas forces moved into the border area late Tuesday and ordered tunnel operators to cease operations until further notice. The operators were allowed to retrieve food and other perishable goods, but otherwise barred from the area on Wednesday.
"This is the first time this has happened," said Jasser Younes, a 25-year-old tunnel worker who helps smuggle cement into Gaza. Two other tunnel operators said Hamas security forces warned people they would be punished if they defied the order. They declined to be identified for fear of punishment.
A Hamas security official confirmed the closure. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Hamas has long controlled the tunnel industry and it was not clear why it was suddenly ordering them shut, given their importance to the group's arms supply and Gaza's economy. Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas seized power nearly three years ago, and the hundreds of tunnels in the Rafah area are the main entry point for many basic items, as well as weapons.