Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gaza Loses an Underground Lifeline

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Underground trade tunnels destroyed on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza. Credit:  Khaled Alashqar/IPS.
Underground trade tunnels destroyed on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza. Credit: Khaled Alashqar/IPS.

GAZA CITY , Jan 10 2014 (IPS) - The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip used to buzz with activity until a few months back as traders brought in an array of Egyptian goods – from food supplies to raw material – through hundreds of tunnels.

But these underground structures, located 40 km from here, between Rafah in Gaza and Sinai in Egypt, have fallen silent.

Things came to a grinding halt after the Egyptian army came to power in Cairo. Calling them a security threat, it launched a systematic military campaign against the tunnels, destroying them, along with the houses under which they were built on its side of the border.

“Never before have we faced this kind of pressure from the Egyptian army.”
For people in Gaza, home to 1.7 million people, the closure of the tunnels has choked a lifeline. Thousands of tunnel operators, traders and workers have been hard hit.
“Never before have we faced this kind of pressure from the Egyptian army and, it seems, things are going to get worse,” said Abu Nabil, a Gaza resident who gave only his nickname for security reasons. He had operated a tunnel on the Palestinian side since 2007.

Nabil said more than 90 percent of the passages, most of which are privately operated, have been destroyed by the Egyptian military, completely paralysing trade through the tunnels.

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