Gaza Smugglers Set Sail After Tunnels Shut Down

GAZA (Reuters) -

Hamas foiled an attempt by residents to smuggle a car from Egypt on Monday, a police spokesman said, signaling a new arena of illicit trade as the Egyptian army cracks down on border tunnels.

Two Gazan smugglers carried the car, a dismantled Hyundai Sonata, on a fishing boat and sailed through the coastal enclave’s waters before being intercepted by coastal forces, Gaza police spokesman Ayoub Abu Sha’ar said.

The smugglers tried to jettison their cargo, sped away from their pursuers and eventually jumped ship. They were rescued and detained by Hamas police divers who spent 10 hours bringing the car parts to shore.

Since the overthrow of Egypt’s elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July, Egyptian security forces have sealed and destroyed most of the 1,200 tunnels that used to bring food, cars and weapons into Gaza.

Bringing in cars through the tunnels was a semi-legal trade, as they were legally bought from Egyptian companies, carried on trucks and then driven into Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said smuggling by sea had increased recently and Israel was determined to prevent the movement of weapons.