Gaza shortages worsen as Egyptian government destroys tunnels

By Rushdi Abu Alouf

September 11, 2013

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – As part of a crackdown against Sinai militants, Egypt’s military-led government destroyed at least 40 smuggling tunnels over the last two weeks, according to officials in the Gaza Strip.

The move has exacerbated shortages in Gaza of construction materials and cheap Egyptian-produced gasoline, which are the primary products delivered through the tunnels.Food, clothing and other consumer goods enter Gaza via Israel, supplying about 40% of the basic needs of Gaza, said Hatem Eweda, director general of Gaza’s Ministry of National Economy.

But he said the recent disruptions have put at risk about 60% of the territory’s daily commerce.

“We call upon brothers in Egypt to open the Rafah crossing for commercial commerce,” Eweda said.

Hamas, the militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, wants Egypt to reopen the Rafah crossing to commercial imports and exports, thereby eliminating the need for smuggling tunnels.

Egypt and Israel, however, say Hamas uses the tunnels to transfer weapons and fighters to launch terrorist attacks from the Sinai Peninsula in cooperation with Islamic extremists.

Over the last week, Egyptian soldiers have launched a large-scale crackdown against Sinai militants. As part of its operation, the military temporarily closed the Rafah crossing for two days, leaving stranded thousands of Palestinian students and medical patients hoping to leave Gaza.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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