Egyptian Army officials revealed on Monday that Cairo forces have found and destroyed over 500 tunnels that connect from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
The 521 tunnels– believed to be primarily used for smuggling weapons, facilitating clandestine movement for Islamist terrorists, and human trafficking– have been destroyed over the past six months, Egyptian officials stated. Egypt has attempted to crack down on the tunnel networks following information that Palestinian terror group Hamas was likely coordinating with Islamist groups in the Sinai to execute Egyptian military and police personnel.
Egyptian military spokesperson General Mohammed Samir said that officials found 6,097 weapons and 2,350kg of explosives in its tunnel operations, according to Middle East Eye.
Egypt is in the process of establishing a buffer zone between Egypt’s territory in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, which is ruled entirely by Hamas. The half-mile buffer zone will allow for Egypt’s military to better defend its territory in the Sinai, officials have stated. The positions have come under intense attacks from Islamist militants since Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi has come to power. Militants in Egypt have conducted attacks much more frequently since the fall of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, who was largely perceived as an ally at worst, and a neutral party at best, to the Sinai terror organizations.
Islamist terror groups have established a foothold in the Sinai, with one group, Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis (now known as the Sinai Province), recently pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The Islamist outfits have been responsible for the killings of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the past two years.
Egypt has attempted to crackdown on the radical Sinai groups with mixed success. On Tuesday, security officials told state news that twelve radicals were killed and another eighteen arrested in a raid on “terrorist hotbeds.” Egyptian officials stated earlier in May that successful operations have left some 725 suspected Islamist terrorists neutralized between October and April.