Palestinians in Gaza feel the Egypt effect as smuggling tunnels close

The Guardian reports: The usually clogged streets of Gaza City are noticeably quieter. Hospitals are warning that their emergency reserves of fuel, used to power generators, are running dangerously low. Construction sites that until recently throbbed with the sound of heavy machinery are deserted.

Palestinians in Gaza are feeling the impact of regime change in next-door Egypt. Since the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted by the military on 3 July, not only have Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, lost their close political allies, but the Egyptian army has clamped down on the smuggling trade through the tunnels, which for six years have been a major lifeline for the 1.7m population of the tiny coastal strip.

The Egyptian authorities have targeted the underground passages as part of a drive to regain control of the vast Sinai desert, whose population is hostile to Cairo.

At the height of the black market trade between Gaza and Egypt, there were thought to be more than 1,000 tunnels employing around 7,000 people – providing Hamas with an income from taxes and permits of millions of dollars a month, estimated at 40% of the government’s revenue. But Egypt is thought to have closed or destroyed around 80% of the tunnels.

“The Gaza Strip has lost around $225m during the past month due to the halt of imports, namely fuel and crude materials for construction, such as cement, gravel and steel,” said the Hamas economy minister, Alaa al-Rafati. [Continue reading…]

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