Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gaza's Tunneling Underground Economy

(Extracted from Al Jazeera)

Sami Abdel Shafi, a Gaza-based business analyst, said: "These days, most of the anecdotal evidence we hear is that the tunnels are being used to bring in very human items, for lack of proper medicine in the Gaza Strip.

"They are used to bring in shoes, chocolate and 7-Up, things like that.

"Then again, all of the quantities being brought in are being blown out of proportion I feel, 1.5 million people deserve a lot more than having to operate under ground, they deserve a much better chance at operating an economy above ground."

Abu Mohammed lost his son and a brother when the tunnel they were digging fell in on them. Since then, he has stopped his other children from going down the tunnels.

Young Palestinians continue to dig tunnels despite the risk of collapse: "What can we do? We have to eat and they were making money for the family. But now, I won't allow them to work no matter how poor we are. It's just not right," he told Al Jazeera.

Egypt is under pressure from Israel to crack down on the tunnels, some of which are in sight of the border police.

Cairo says it is making efforts to halt the trade, and the UN says that during a two-day period in August, 28 tunnels were destroyed by the authorities.

Mohyeldin reported that some Palestinians even boast that the Egyptians will never be able to shut all the tunnels because it is also a lucrative trade for many Egyptians.

But Abdel Shafi warns that longer the tunnels remain a lifeline, the more it will undermine the chances of a proper Palestinian economy being developed.

"It will have catastrophic consequences in the long term, even if it does provide or alleviate some of the need for the moment," he said.

"The Gaza Strip cannot be sustained on the operations of the tunnels."

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