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Smugglers Get Tunnels Back in Operation Gaza

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gaztunnelPicture not from der Spiegel

Smugglers Get Tunnels Back in Operation

By Volkhard Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand in the Gaza Strip Today at 12:04

Israel wanted to destroy the tunnels used to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. But they failed to reach their objective: Gaza’s tunnel diggers are already getting the underground passages back into order.

It’s clean-up time in the southern Gaza Strip. In the Brazil refugee camp, right on the border with Egypt, the operators of the infamous tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons in from Egypt have come to assess the damage caused by the Israeli bombardment. A woman sits and wails in front of a pile of rubble which once must have been a four or five-story house. Her husband and children carry debris on to the street.

“Sure, there was a tunnel which started in the basement of this house,” says Hassan, 28, who is employed as a tunnel digger four houses further on. It took two months to construct the underground passage, which was finished in November of last year. A total of 13 men worked on the construction.

Before the Israeli offensive in Gaza started, a large proportion of the weapons being smuggled to Hamas came through the 200 to 400 tunnels along the 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It’s true that the Israeli bombardment was massive, one of the tunnel diggers says, but only half the tunnels were destroyed at most.

“I am a mouse,” says Hassan with a laugh. “I have spent half my life down there.”

Hassan’s boss stands in a shoddily built concrete shack on the border strip and screams down a deep black hole in front of him. “Mohammed! Hang the lamp on the rope and come up! I’ll shine a light for you!” The tunnel is 26 meters (85 feet) deep and 330 meters (1,080 feet) long. The two vertical shafts are lined with wood, but not the tunnel itself. Each tunnel costs around $70,000 (€54,000) to build. This particular tunnel ends in a house on the Egyptian side of the border. The police there are aware of the secret passage, but they have done nothing about it.

At the moment the electricity in the tunnel is out, meaning no goods can be transported through it. The motors for the cranes and transport sled aren’t working and neither are the ventilation and lighting.

A dim light can be seen wobbling in the depths of the hole — Mohammed is coming up. Two minutes later, he is at the top of the wooden ladder. The sweat is running off his forehead and his red Lacoste shirt is wet. “Everything’s okay,” he gasps and lies down on the ground, breathing heavily. “A lot of sand has got in, it’ll take us a while to shovel it all out. But I managed to get across to the other side. Our friends in Egypt send their regards.


Written by morris

January 20, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Egypt, Gaza

Tagged with ,

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