“It’s unbearable, this siege,” complained a Hamas operative who splits his time between training the next generation of militants and serving on the administrative committee at a UNRWA school.
Rafah, Gaza Strip, May 8 – Egyptian military forces detonated charges inside a tunnel connecting the Hamas-controlled and Egyptian-controlled portions of this city yesterday, further restricting the movement of goods and people between the two locations and bringing closer the prospect of a shortage of high-end vehicles and other luxury merchandise for buyers on the Palestinian side.
The demolition of the underground passageway – wide enough to accommodate passenger vehicles and large cargo – represents but the latest in an ongoing Egyptian campaign to exert control over the movement of people and merchandise across the border, and to help enhance security in an area plagued by Islamic-State-allied terrorist groups. The policy, however, has had dire consequences for officials and connected businessmen in the Gaza Strip who wish to purchase BMW, Mercedes, or other luxury vehicles, the smugglers of which rely on the tunnels to bring in their wares.
Ali Mustafa, who used to manage a smuggling tunnel until it was sealed by the Egyptian military last year, has struggled to make ends meet since then. “There’s all this demand for expensive cars, especially among senior Hamas people, but I can’t get my hands on those anymore,” he lamented. “There are fewer and fewer tunnels available via which to bring in the cars, so while the prices have gone up, that’s because it’s harder and harder to supply those goods. If I still ran a tunnel I could be making a tidy sum.”
Hamas, the militant Islamist movements that governs Gaza, charges a toll for each use of the smuggling tunnels, and the destruction of so many tunnels between the two Rafahs over the last several years has put a dent in the organization’s revenue stream from the smuggling. Overall, the decline of such revenue has not adversely affected Hamas’s finances, as it still collects hefty taxes from the more than two million Palestinians in Gaza, plus generous support from patrons such as Qatar, Turkey, and occasionally Iran. However, the hostility evident in the Sisi administration in Cairo toward Hamas, an offshoot of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, comes through in the tunnel demolition effort, and frustration has spiked among Palestinians who wish to display their social status by cruising around the Gaza Strip in the latest European sports sedan.
“It’s unbearable, this siege,” complained a Hamas operative who splits his time between training the next generation of militants and serving on the administrative committee at a UNRWA school. “I almost miss the days when Israel was in control.”
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