Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

1,200 tunnels operating between Egypt and the Gaza Strip- Sinai tribal leader | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The leader of the Al-Akur Tribe in Sinai, Arif Abu-Akr, has revealed that the 1,200 tunnels between the borders of Egypt and Gaza Strip are working at full capacity. Abu-Akr told Asharq Al-Awsat that these tunnels were being used to carry out terrorist attacks, “but we cannot arrest them or present them to justice.”

During the transitional period, which was administered by the military, the Egyptian authorities had announced the closure of the tunnels to the Gaza Strip; however, security sources in Sinai have said that many of the tunnels are now fully operational since President Muhammad Mursi’s accession to power at the beginning of July 2012. Security sources also revealed that the governor of North Sinai had lodged a complaint with senior officials in Cairo, but was told: “The tunnels do not represent a problem.”

Egyptian authorities say that the situation in Sinai is under control; however, a number of Sinai tribal leaders have been vocal about the need to end the chaotic security situation. Majdi Jilbanah, leader of Abu-Jilbanah Tribe, the largest tribe in Sinai, has called on the state leaders to deploy the National Security personnel urgently to hunt down foreign elements, which Abu-Jilbanah says are widespread across Sinai.

For his part, Abu-Akr, leader of Al-Akur Tribe told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “We do not object to conveying food and medicine to our brethren in Gaza, but there are those who carry out terrorist actions, enter and escape through the tunnels, and we cannot arrest them.”

Abu-Akr said that most of those carrying out terrorist operations in Sinai have come from other Egyptian governorates, and have settled in Sinai because of the security vacuum that occurred in the Peninsula after the revolution. Abu-Akr adds that the majority of those carrying out criminal operations, storming the police stations, and killing the innocent “are not from the sons of Sinai, but they have come from other governorates, and exploited the security vacuum that occurred in the country during the revolution; they have been helped in this by the rugged geographical nature of Sinai, which makes it easy for them to find hideouts and outlets.”

Since the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the security situation in Sinai has been chaotic, with confrontations between the army and police forces on one side, and elements considered to be Islamist hardliners – including Egyptians, Palestinians, and other Arab nationals – on the other. Israel says that some of the extremists from groups active in Gaza (which is governed by Hamas Movement affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood Group) and Sinai are working to carry out attacks on Israel launched from Egypt.

The leader of Al-Akur Tribe went on to say that, “We have obtained many promises from all authorities that the demands of the population of Sinai will be satisfied, with the establishment of security and development at their forefront; however, nothing has materialized yet.”

“We felt hopeful when the January revolution came; however, so far we have not seen real change.” Abu-Akr added.