AL-ARISH: Two Egyptian teenagers suspected of trafficking fuel and food through tunnels into the impoverished Gaza Strip were wounded in a shootout with police on Thursday, a security official said.
The two youths were spotted by a police patrol near one of 20 tunnels between Egypt and Hamas-ruled Gaza that a security official said had been discovered this week and were now being destroyed or blocked.
A gunfight broke out in which Hatem Mohammed Ahmed, 18, and Ahmed Naim Awad, 15, were seriously wounded, while a third suspect was arrested.
However, other news reports say that there were four smugglers, three of which were injured.
A senior Egyptian security official told The Associated Press that the suspects were laying an 800-meter underground pipeline to ship fuel illegally into Gaza. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.
He says the tunnels were uncovered over the past week.
Jerry cans of fuel were discovered in the tunnel, as well as packages of food apparently destined for Gaza, which has been under a punishing Israeli blockade since the Hamas seized power there in June 2007.
Egyptian security forces on Wednesday began destroying or blocking 20 tunnels where they seized large amounts of fuel, food and cigarettes, the security official said.
One smuggler was discovered inside one of the tunnels and arrested.
Israel and the United States have accused Egypt of failing to do enough to combat contraband and weapons trafficking to Gaza Strip, charges Cairo has denied. -Agencies