Exclusive video: Egypt constructs canal to flood Gaza tunnels

Exclusive video: Egypt constructs canal to flood Gaza tunnels
An al-Araby al-Jadeed video, shot in a restricted area, shows the Egyptian army constructing a water canal to flood and destroy smuggling tunnels that were built along the Gaza-Sinai border.
3 min read
21 September, 2015

Egyptian tunnels

Al-Araby al-Jadeed was able to record a video of the Egyptian Army constructing a water canal to flood and destroy smuggling tunnels that were built on the border between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.

The exclusive footage was taken from inside one of the areas where the Egyptian Army has imposed severe entry restrictions and shows the last touches of the construction of a water canal, days before pumping seawater into it.

The short video shows Egyptian Army bulldozers working on completing the construction of the canal. It also shows barbed wire installed along the new canal in an area free of houses or residents - the "sterile" zone.

The canals had been constructed over land in Sinai that was cleared of local residents and homes after thousands of families were forcefully evacuated and displaced by the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to create a 1km-wide "sterile" zone along the 12km-long southern border of the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian Army had been secretly creating these water canals to flood and eventually destroy the smuggling tunnels that had been constructed along the border between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. It also aims to loosen up the soil around the tunnels to make it difficult to dig new ones.

On Friday, the army started pumping water into the new canal, flooding a large number of the remaining tunnels after most of them were destroyed during the army's military campaign there.

Egypt has been struggling to quell a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohamad Morsi in 2013.

Rafah Mayor warns of housing collapse

On Monday morning, the mayor of Rafah warned of the danger of the canal project.

"The project...near the Egyptian-Palestinian border puts buildings at risk of sudden collapse and poses a real danger to the lives of citizens," he said.

Radwan said the project will cause "landslides" in the area that will lead to the collapse of roads and infrastructure, including sewage and communication networks in the area.

Following the collapse of a tunnel after it was flooded last week, Radwan said that the damage caused to the area so far is only a small example of the "disaster that will follow" if the construction of the moat continues.

The government in Gaza also appealed for urgent intervention at all levels to ensure the safety of citizens in Rafah, calling for human rights and international institutions and civil society organizations to condemn the project.

Hamas also said that the project further isolates the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the group came into power in 2007. 

Abbas' idea?

Over the weekend, footage was circulated depicting the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, claiming that the flooding of the tunnels had been "his idea".

Abbas said he had told the Egyptian authorities "years ago" that the tunnels should be destroyed by either flooding or a large iron fence, on the grounds that the tunnels are illegal.