Egypt Gaza border Hamas tunnels
At least 18 fish farms to come up along 14km Egypt-Gaza border. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Egypt is setting up military-run fish farms in order stamp out militant and smuggling activities in the Gaza underground tunnels. The Egyptian military is said to have begun digging activity near its border with the Gaza Strip as part of the project.

The project, when completed, will fill the entire border area with water. According to the Associated Press, at least 18 fish farms would be built along the 14km Egypt-Gaza border to raise mullet and shrimp.

A Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, was quoted as saying that the project will lead to "tightening of the grip of siege on Gaza". He warned Egypt should not "slide into this cliff that agrees with the Israeli policies of siege". Even though the project is in its the initial stages, its impact is already being felt by some human smugglers, who say trafficking has now become tougher.

The tunnels and the revenue generated by smuggled goods have been a key source of income for Hamas, the group which largely controls the Gaza Strip. The tunnels were bustling with such activity under both president Hosni Mubarak and his successor Mohamed Morsi. However, following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi from power, the ruling Egyptian government under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been cracking down on militant activities in the frontier.

The Egyptian government had earlier planned to construct a canal in the area to flood it with water in order to get rid of the tunnels. But the project was thought to have been abandoned due to technical limitations and budget concerns.