Home inContext Breaching the Gaza Barrier

Breaching the Gaza Barrier

Richard Smith

Egypt’s enormous security wall along its border with the Gaza Strip, currently being constructed in order to curb Palestinian smuggling activity, has already been breached repeatedly by smugglers, according to news reports today.

In some areas, the steel wall is already over 20 meters deep. When finished it will run the entire length of the Gaza-Egypt border, some nine to ten kilometers long. Although the impressive depth of the barrier was intended to prevent tunneling and was reportedly “impenetrable” and “impossible to melt,” Egyptian security officials suggest that the barrier has already been penetrated “hundreds of times.” Video footage obtained this week shows a smuggler underground cutting his way through the metal wall with a blowtorch. “It’s a big failure,” commented one official, who didn’t have much else to say.

Egypt’s security wall

Now that Israel has considerably eased the terms of the blockade, is it surprising that some still seek to maintain and expand Gaza’s tunnels into Egypt? Maybe so, if the situation is seen in economic terms. With almost double the amount of aid now going from Israel to Gaza – amounting to over 25,000 tons a week – the smuggler’s monopoly for many products is diminishing, and fears of going out of business on the rise. Many believe that legitimate imports from Israel will put an end to the clandestine tunnel network.

A statement from Hamas’s Economic Minister appears to give the game away. Ziad al-Zaza hints that the regime might ban certain imports in order to support “local industry.” This is no revelation, given that Hamas took control of all the tunnels 18 months ago in order to oversee arms importation as well as tax civilian goods.

However, the pursuit of profit is hardly Hamas’s sole reason for breaching the barrier. Just as when Hamas refused the aid from the Mavi Marmara ship, the regime is once again working against the interests of the Palestinian people. Attempting to permeate the Egyptian wall before it is even finished demonstrates Hamas’s intent to serve its own needs above all, instead of aligning them with the people of Gaza. Choosing to maintain a decaying tunnel empire, an undergound labyrinth of collapsing burrows that has killed scores of Palestinians every year, while 150 trucks of humanitarian aid enter Gaza every day, is a potent reminder of Hamas’s murderous intent to import arms and wreak havoc on Israelis and Palestinians alike. This motive should come as far less of a surprise.