Closure of tunnels into Gaza 'will put thousands of Palestinians out of work'


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The Independent Online

The campaign to shut down smuggling tunnels under the border into the Gaza Strip threatens to put thousands of Palestinians out of work.

The network of tunnels has been a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 per cent of all goods, circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Weapons are also smuggled and at least 10,000 Palestinians are believed to work in the tunnels.

Abu Bilal, who moves cement and gravel through the tunnels, said Egypt has flooded dozens of them in the past two weeks. 

If he lost his job in tunnels, his hopes of finding another job in Gaza Strip, where economists put the unemployment rate at more than 30 percent, would be slim.

Citing security concerns for the crackdown, Cairo said some of the gunmen who killed 16 Egyptian soldiers near the Gaza border fence in August had crossed into Egypt via the tunnels, an allegation denied by Palestinians.

The move surprised and angered Hamas, had hoped for much better ties with Cairo following the election last year of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, a fellow Islamist.