#AceNewsServices – RAFAH – GAZA STRIP – March 31 – (ALJazeera) – Rafah, Gaza Strip – Two men load boxes onto a solitary motorcycle-pulled trailer in an otherwise deserted pavilion.
The Gaza Strip’s customs and excise terminal on the southern border with Egypt, once a hive of activity, now sees barely a trickle of imports after the Egyptian military began destroying Gaza’s extensive network of smuggling tunnels, following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Adjacent to the empty terminal and backing onto a collection of decrepit, bullet-ridden apartment buildings, a bank of metal-framed structures stretch across into the distance. Each white covering shelters the entrance to a privately owned smuggling tunnel, the closure of which has further crippled an already besieged Gazan economy.
In March, Egyptian authorities announced the destruction of 1,370 tunnels along the Gaza border.
“They’re working very hard to destroy all the tunnels now,” Hamas border guard Muhammad Abu Hossam told Al Jazeera from his guard post along the Gaza-Egyptian border. “You see the explosions on their side, it’s like a war. Yesterday it was 20 and today it was 10.”
Israel’s imposed land and sea blockade of Gaza, approaching its eighth year, lead to the construction of tunnels to import medicine, food, consumer goods and building materials. While some speculators made small fortunes on tunnel construction, the network sustained many livelihoods through labouring, distribution and the supply of materials to the construction industry.
“The tunnel was destroyed two months ago when the Egyptians filled it with water,” Ahmad, a labourer who worked in the tunnels, says, nodding towards the dark entrance. “Now, there’s nothing to do and there’s no chance for the people to work. If the tunnels are open, there is work in Gaza. I have a wife and two children to feed and I worry for them. I’m lucky to still have a job watching the entrance.”
While operating, the tunnel employed around 20 people to move goods underground, load them onto trucks and distribute them around Gaza.
“I used to get paid 80 shekels [$23] per day – carrying sand during construction and carrying the goods onto the waiting trucks,” Ahmad said.
Courtesy of Al Jazeera – Nigel O’Connor – Last updated: 31 Mar 2014 14:13