Articles recently published about the tunnel trade in the Gaza Strip describe the relatively new industry in an adventurous light, even daring – the Indiana Jones of the Middle East. However, the problem is that adopting this perspective may obscure the overall picture.
Indeed, the tunnels industry at the Gaza-Egypt border has become “one of the largest branches of Gaza’s economy”, if not the largest. Yet the industry’s success is directly linked to Israel’s closure policy, which allows for the passage of “humanitarian goods” only (“humanitarian goods” are yet to be defined). Ironically, this new economy is proving most profitable for the Hamas government, which oversees tunnel mining and operations, and which collects taxes from tunnel owners. The hundreds of tunnels operating today in Gaza and the thousands of people employed in them account for about two-thirds of the goods entering Gaza.
Although there are a few making big bucks off of the tunnel trade, in contrast, most residents of the Gaza Strip face a grim reality. The industry, by its very nature, is a testament to this. Many young people are forced, because they have no alternative employment options, to work in the tunnels and sometimes remain working underground for days on end. Since the start of the closure, approximately 110 people have been killed on the job, among them 30 children. The total number of people wounded due to tunnel related incidents such as suffocation and entrapment as a result of explosions, air strikes and collapses stands at approximately 190.
A clip produced by B’Tselem endeavors to illustrate, if only a little, this reality.