Gaza: Tunnels, Hamas' goose with the golden eggs, Abu Mazen

800 new black market millionaires in the Strip, Abu Mazen says

03 September, 20:15

(ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV/GAZA, SEPTEMBER 3 - Hamas has grown rich off the fruit of contraband through the tunnels between the Egyptian Sinai and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian President Abu Mazen (aka Mahmud Abbas) has said in recent interviews with British magazine The Economist and Egyptian magazine Roz el-Yusef.

''These tunnels have created millionaires on both sides of the border,'' Abu Mazen said. ''The goose with the golden eggs has created more than 800 new millionaires in the Strip, and another 1,600 about to become millionaires. All to the detriment of both Palestinian and Egyptian national interests.'' Gaza sources said the smuggling bonanza began in 2005, when Israel withdrew from its military air base on the Gaza-Sinai border. Setting up in the smuggling business on the no-man's-land on either side of the border was easy: all it took was a tent, a generator, and enough elbow grease to dig a 25-40 meter tunnel. The Israeli blockade, coupled with Hamas' 2007 takeover of power, gave new impulse to the black market, with the tunnels, which went from 200 to 1,200 in just a few years, as the only way to get supplies in and out of Gaza. Hamas did not immediately grasp the economic potential of the tunnels, which were used to smuggle not only arms, but also medicine, cigarettes, construction materials, food and drink. It eventually took control of the tunnels, and this is how the nouveaux riches of the Strip were made, according to Abu Mazen.

''Hamas exploits those tunnels, which provide the huge profits which are the foundations of its government,'' Abu Mazen said.

This, while Gaza citizens are reeling from the suicide by burning of Mohamed Abu Nada, 20, who set himself on fire in front of al-Shifa city hospital. He was unemployed, and his family lived in a state of extreme poverty on less than 180 euros a month, his father told reporters.

The only way to stop the trafficking and the corruption it entails, is for Egypt to open its Rafah border crossing so legal trade can resume in the light of day, on the basis of the original international accords, Abu Mazen said. That is to say, giving the PNA control over the border. Hamas, however, is far from likely to accept this new order of things. (ANSAmed).

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