The sources said the steel barrier has not affected most of the 1,500
tunnels that connect Egypt's Sinai Peninsula with the Gaza Strip. But they
said the tremors from the heavy drilling and construction were causing
tunnel collapses as well as killing operators.
"The tunnels that are deep won't be affected, but most of the tunnels
are within 40 meters of the surface and they could collapse as construction
proceeds," the source said.
The sources said the Egyptian project, conducted in cooperation with
France and the United States, has alarmed the Hamas regime in the Gaza
Strip. They said Hamas - which charges an annual $2,500 for the right to
operate a tunnel - has appealed to Egypt to suspend its project.
Egypt, amid sniper attacks from the Gaza Strip, has reinforced the
border with several hundred troops to protect construction crews. On Jan. 6,
an Egyptian officer was killed and more than a dozen others were injured in
a gun battle along the border with the Gaza Strip that stemmed from a
Hamas-organized protest of the barrier.
"We did not expect them [Egypt] to impose a siege and be punished by a
state considered to be our brother," Hamas spokesman Hamad Al Rouqub said.
Hamas has also sponsored tunnel construction along the border with
Israel. On Jan. 1, the Israeli Air Force attacked two tunnels leading from
the northern and southern Gaza Strip toward Israel.
"The tunnels originated from a distance of about one kilometer from the
Gaza security fence, and were intended to infiltrate Israel and execute a
terror attack against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers," the military said
on Jan. 1.