Egypt’s Foreign Ministry criticised The New York Times for publishing an article which the ministry claims to be "distorted facts" to make readers sympathetic with Gaza’s smugglers.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abo Zeid said in an official statement that the article, published 7 October and titled "As Egypt Floods Gaza Tunnels, Smugglers Fear an End to Their Trade", aims to "misrepresent facts", therefore giving a legitimate facade for an illegitimate practice that is against domestic and international law.
The article stated that Gaza smugglers fear that their trade will be "doomed" following a strategy by Egypt to flood smuggling tunnels until they collapse. The article documents the stories of a group of smugglers and how their operations were negatively impacted after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was sworn into office in 2014.
Last year, Egypt’s military announced that since January 2011 it destroyed a total of 1,813 smuggling tunnels in the Sinai Peninsula.
“Isn’t the newspaper aware that sovereign states have an international duty to protect and secure their borders against any illegitimate smuggling?” Abo Zeid said.
He added that the paper’s attempt to blame Egypt for Gaza’s economic collapse, poverty and power outages is "ridiculous," pointing out that the Strip's economic crisis is a result of Israel's siege and its disregard of its responsibilities as an occupation force that controls four crossing points with Gaza.
Abo Zeid added that Egypt "did its best" to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people by hosting a conference in 2014 under the name "Reconstructing Gaza".
"The article purposefully ignores the effect of smuggling tunnels on Egypt’s national security and the role such tunnels play in allowing terrorists into the Sinai Peninsula," he said.
"If it is possible to smuggle goods without inspection on the borders, then what stops the smuggling of weapons, people and antiquities in the same way?"
Egypt's army has been waging an offensive in North Sinai to counter a rising Islamist insurgency that has left hundreds of police and army personnel dead in the last two years.
Questioning if the paper aims to "promote lawlessness," Abo Zeid said that the paper’s coverage aims to "defame Egypt’s reputation in all possible ways".
The New York Times has criticised the Sisi administration on a number of issues including allegations of rights abuses. Egypt, on the other hand, has charged that several western papers including the NYT have displayed bias against the Egyptian government in the aftermath of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.