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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/27/2014 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Despite efforts to destroy tunnels, most of Gaza gets supplies from large underground network

Cut off from the rest of the world with three sides enforced by Israel and Egypt, coupled with shelling maintained by sea and in the air above its coastal strip, Gazans have found a way around their confinement by tunneling underground.

Other than giving Hamas tax revenue and weapons, the tunnels supply in-demand civilian goods like food and medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

Other than giving Hamas tax revenue and weapons, the tunnels supply in-demand civilian goods like food and medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/27/2014 (7 months ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Hamas, tunnels, Gaza, underground, economy


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Shoehorned into a 139-square-mile territory, the 1.8 million Palestinians have had to rely on tunnels since 2007. Goods continue to arrive underground from Egypt through the city of Rafah, in spite of efforts in the last years from successive Egyptian governments to close some of the tunnels.

Other than giving Hamas tax revenue and weapons, the tunnels supply in-demand civilian goods like food and medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

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Smuggling routes on the Egyptian border are also crucial for the movement of imports. Many of the tunnels provide passage under populated urban areas. The tunnels also serve as a place where Hamas leaders and their weapons are shielded from potential air attacks. Militarily, the tunnels on the eastern border are designed for incursions into Israel.

Some of the tunnels originate near the Israeli border in the Gaza City suburb of Shujaiya. Clashes there this past weekend saw a sharply increased death toll on both sides.

Hamas says it justifies its investment in the tunnels because the underground network is an "existential issue for the movement," Dan Murphy, a Middle East correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, says.

The Gaza tunnels have been a part of everyday life since the 1980s. Their importance grew after Hamas routed Fatah, and Israel subsequently placed severe restrictions on the territory. The result was that more of Gaza's underground trade shifted to the Egyptian border, and the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry's Tunnel Affairs Commission began to regulate commerce.

The tunnels reportedly funneled some $700 million into Gaza's economy and provided employment for as many as 7,000 people at their peak. The lucrative if dangerous traffic is thought to continue today through about 500 tunnels.

Before Egypt cracked down last year, even flooding some of the tunnels with sewage, the U.N. estimated that a peak volume of some 500 tons of steel and 3,000 tons of cement moved across a stretch of border just a few miles wide each day.

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