Gaza protests against tunnel closures
Ma'an News Agency
October 1, 2012
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Dozens of Palestinians gathered near Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday morning to protest against their neighbor shutting down a tunnel network under the border.
Hamas leaders, local officials and residents held Egyptian and Palestinian flags, urging Egypt to protect the entry of goods into Gaza.
The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli land and sea blockade, and its sole border crossing not controlled by Israel, Egypt's Rafah terminal, is not equipped for the passage of goods.
To circumvent the blockade, a vast underground tunnel network into Egypt was established, with the oversight of the Hamas-run government.
After years of turning a blind eye, Egypt started closing the tunnels after the Aug. 5 attack in Sinai when gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. Egypt suspects the tunnels were used by some of the militants, while Hamas says no-one from Gaza was involved in the attack.
Tunnel owners told Ma'an on Friday that just 10 percent of the network is still in operation, and the passage of goods and people through tunnels are now under strict regulation from Egyptian and Palestinian authorities.
Hamas official Yousef Farahat told reporters at Sunday's demonstration the tunnels are the "lifeblood" of the Gaza Strip. He urged the Egyptian government, led by Islamist President Muhammad Mursi, to take practical steps to help Gaza's beseiged economy.
"Don't force us to lose hope in the Egyptian revolution and in the new regime," he said.
He noted that the tunnels are just an emergency measure and not the only or strategic choice.
Farahat called on the international community to help open official crossings into Gaza and for the Egyptian government to fulfil pledges to establish a free trade zone between Egypt and Gaza.
Hamas wants to reduce its dependence on Israel's blockade policies by increasing economic links with Egypt, but some Palestinian officials worry such access would encourage the party to bypass Fatah, which rules in the West Bank.
Hamas officials have also urged Egypt to allow Rafah crossing to be used for goods also but Cairo has been reluctant to pursue changes to international agreements with Israel and other Western nations which stipulate that Rafah is only for travel.
Related Topics: Egypt, Gaza, Hamas
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