Gazans call on Egypt not to destroy tunnels
Dozens of Palestinian notables and community leaders demonstrated on Sunday at the borderline area between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt, calling on Egypt not to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels, Xinhua reported.
Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, called for the demonstration in protest of Egyptian security campaign to destroy smuggling tunnels dug underneath Gaza-Egypt's borders.
The rally was held at Rafah town refugee camp, where most of the tunnels were dug over the past five years after Israel imposed a tight blockade on the costal enclave and banned goods and fuel to Gaza.
Waving Palestinian flags and holding banners, the demonstrators said the tunnels have been the artery of life for more than 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after Israel closed down all the crossing points with Gaza.
Yousef Farhat, one of Hamas leaders in Rafah, told the rally that Israel "is closing the Gaza Strip and deprive its residents of freedom, but it is illogic that our people is economically suffocated."
Farhat called on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to immediately resolve the crisis.
"If you (referring to Egypt) want to destroy it, please open a free trade area between Gaza and Egypt," said Farhat. "Keep the tunnels operating until all of us agree on establishing the free trade area."
The Hamas leader warned on more pressure on residents of the Gaza Strip "due to the ongoing endless siege," adding that if this pressure goes on, the consequences will be disastrous.
Hamas leadership had earlier accepted to close down all smuggling tunnels after Egypt accepts to establish a joint free trade area on the borders between Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Egypt intensified its security measures in Sinai, mainly against smuggling tunnels, after the deadly attack on Aug. 5 on an Egyptian army post in Sinai that left 16 Egyptian soldiers killed and seven others wounded.