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Hamas closes Gaza Strip tunnels as Israelis fear kidnapping

Hamas officials closed smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following Israeli intelligence reports that militants planned to kidnap an Israeli tourist in Egypt and take him to Gaza. Hamas officials say they will not allow Gaza to become a base for terrorist attacks in Egypt.

A Palestinian smuggler works inside a tunnel in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday. Gaza's Hamas rulers have ordered residents to shut smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt indefinitely, cutting off the economic lifeline for 1.5 million Palestinians in the impoverished territory, residents and tunnel operators said Wednesday.

Adel Hana/AP

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Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip ordered the closure of some of the territory’s largest underground smuggling tunnels Wednesday, hours after Israeli officials said they had evidence militants were planning to kidnap an Israeli tourist on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and transport him into Gaza.

Israel suggested its citizen's leave Egypt immediately.

Egypt has long feared militants in the Gaza Strip, the restive Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, could use the territory as a base to carry out terrorist attacks in the Sinai. Though still small, militant groups have been established in the strip in recent years that share the ideology and global goals of Al Qaeda, rather than that of the nationalist Hamas. Last August, Hamas security forces killed 20 members of an Al Qaeda inspired group in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

Hamas’ decision to seal Gaza’s underground passageways – which have brought food and medicine and weapons to Gaza during an Israeli and Egypt-imposed blockade – was an apparent move to allay Egyptian concerns.

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