Repairs begin on Gazas smuggling tunnels

Resembling a lunar landscape, the Rafah smuggling tunnels took the full force of Israel's eight-day offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Dug through the sandy soil, the tunnels serve as a vital crossroads for goods of all varieties entering the strip. After eight days of near continuous bombardment by Israeli forces most of the tunnels are severely damaged or completely destroyed.

For the workers of these underground trade routes, the damage is a set back but the tunnels will be rebuilt.

"As you can see there is complete destruction, the tunnels are all destroyed because of the missiles. We will rebuild them and bring in food, flour lentils and sugar and building material such as cement and metal so that the people can break the siege on Gaza," said Mohamad Omar on Friday (November 23), while his friends cleared up their camp.

Israel accuses the armed militant groups, based in Gaza, of smuggling weapons through the tunnels, weapons that eventually end up being fired at Israel. The Israeli military says it destroyed 140 of them in its air campaign.

Gaza militant groups and Israel on Wednesday agreed to a truce, but the Jewish state will not lighten its blockade of the enclave, Israeli sources said, as some Hamas officials had hoped it might.

The Rafah border crossing with Egypt also remained mostly closed to traffic.

The impoverished enclave's food supply remained stable despite eight days of withering Israeli air assaults aimed at Palestinian militants, but medical supplies were running short.

Workers say the attacks destroyed more than two-thirds of the cross-border tunnels that bring cement, fuel and food - as well as weapons - into the coastal strip blockaded by Egypt and Israel since the Hamas Islamist group began its rule there in 2007.

"We are trying to fix the tunnel in order to return to our normal life which we need the tunnel for work. It costs a lot but what can we do, we have to fix it. For example this tunnel of ours which has been hit it will cost no less that 40 thousand dollars to fix," said Mohamad Aladwan, standing next to the tunnel we works on.

None of the tunnel workers interviewed said they had handled military materiel, and all said they were eager to reopen them for the sake of Gaza's civilians, and their own livelihoods.
Wednesday's ceasefire ended eight days of lopsided fighting in Gaza and Israel that killed more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis.

For the more than 1,000 wounded Palestinians recovering in hospitals, deliveries of medicine by the World Health Organization and other aid agencies after the ceasefire arrived just in time.

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Last Update: Friday, 23 November 2012 KSA 14:04 - GMT 11:04
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