Smuggling quickened fearing tunnel collapses 26Dec09 December 27, 2009

Ma’an News Agency -  26 December 2009


Dozens of smuggling tunnels are expected to collapse any day as Egyptian workers continue to boar 25 meter plates of steel into the earth along the Gaza border, smugglers said Friday.

Witnesses said four tunnels already collapsed this week at the northern end of the border near the Salah Ad-Din Gate. As a result, two Palestinians were killed and a fire erupted in one of the tunnels.

Expecting more collapses, tunnel owners quickened the pace of goods deliveries while old tunnels near the Salah Addin Gates were abandoned. Even residents of the Egyptian city of Rafah have said they are worried that their homes might collapse or crack as a result of work on the underground steel wall.

Egypt began construction on the 10-kilometer long border wall in early December, saying it was an attempt to stifle the tunnel smuggling trade between their country and Gaza.

The tunnel industry sprang up following the start of the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza in 2006, and acts as a lifeline for Gazans and the only way to get most goods into the coastal region. Israel continues to maintain a tight blockade of the land border crossings, and keeps several naval warships three to five kilometers off the Gaza shore.

According to officials in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Egypt says it is building the wall according to the conditions of the International Middle East Quartet. The office of the Quartet in Jerusalem could not be reached for comment.

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