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Tunnel business in Gaza declines due to Egypt's security measures

English.news.cn   2013-09-27 20:38:17            

Gaza, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Several trucks are lined up near the Rafah crossing on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, waiting to transport goods. However, due to Egypt's crackdown on smuggling tunnels, the once heat-up business is not thriving.

"Only a few tunnels are still operating, secretly, because the Egyptian army campaign against the tunnels has not ended yet," said Abu Mahmoud, a truck driver. "Few goods were transported in addition to limited amounts of fuels from Egypt to Gaza."

The Egyptian government said that the tunnels were used for not only transporting daily necessities to the Gaza Strip, but also smuggling weapons. However, Hamas denied that it was involved in violence in Egypt.

Over the past three months, since the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian army has destroyed most of smuggling tunnels underneath the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai.

After Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 in response to the Hamas movement's seizing control of the coastal enclave, the Palestinians dug hundreds of tunnels to smuggle basic needs, such as food and fuels.

Salah Hamad, a Palestinian smuggler in Rafah town, told Xinhua that it is hard to enter Egypt through the tunnels now.

"Going to Egypt through the tunnels is full of risks nowadays, and it is not as easy as it was before the Egyptian revolution on July 30," Hamad said.

The 13-kilometer borderline between Egypt and the Gaza Strip returns to calm over the past several weeks, leaving only Egyptian bulldozers digging in the ground to search for tunnels.

"We easily hear the sound of the bulldozers and sometimes in the middle of nights we heard huge explosions and felt that the ground was shaking," said Om Ahmed, a 45-year-old mother of six children.

Hamas officials said that in the past three months, the Egyptian army destroyed hundreds of tunnels used to bring food and fuel to the Gaza Strip, which has cost the Palestinians 360 million U.S. dollars.

Meanwhile, Israel began to relax the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this week, Israel allowed for the first time in six years 90 trucks loaded with construction materials, including cements, gravel and steal to enter the Gaza Strip. Residents in the enclave usually smuggled those materials from Egypt through the tunnels over the past five years.

However, Naji Hamdan, deputy minister of the ministry of public work of the Hamas government, told Xinhua that most of the private and governmental construction projects completely stopped after the destruction of the tunnels, "the Israeli construction materials are not enough at all."

The Mayor of Rafah town, Subhi Radwan, told Xinhua that the Egyptian army destroyed more than 90 percent of the tunnels, "if Egypt destroys the tunnels, we should immediately find an alternative."

However, amid the ongoing tension between Egyptian authorities and Hamas, it is difficult to find a way out, according to economists and politicians in the Gaza Strip, because Hamas had clearly showed support to the Muslims Brotherhood in Egypt.

"Egypt's security campaign on the tunnels was a painful strike to the unstable economy of the Gaza Strip and caused direct and indirect losses. Destruction of hundreds of tunnels cost millions of dollars and left more than 7,000 workers unemployed," said M' een Rajab, a retired professor in economy in Gaza.

Editor: Hou Qiang
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