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Hamas Charges $3,000 a Day for Each Smuggling-Tunnel
Hamas has taken over the estimated 150 smuggling-tunnels from Egypt into Gaza; five tunnels whose owners didn’t agree to pay were blown up.

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by Hillel Fendel

Hamas has taken over the estimated 150 smuggling-tunnels from Egypt into Gaza, and charges the owners $3,000 each per day.

Five tunnels were blown up by Hamas because their owners didn’t agree to pay the fee. The other digger/owners quickly agreed to pay the requested fee, enabling Hamas to attain a monopoly on the tunnels.

Correspondent Haggai Huberman reports that while the 150 tunnels bring in a total of some $150 million annually, the value of men, weapons and other merchandise smuggled in each year total more than three times that amount – close to a half-billion dollars. The tunnels are run in a systematic manner, with compensation being paid to the family of a tunnel-digger who dies during the work, and with judges who mediate in various disputes that arise.

The tunnels are categorized according to the goods that pass through them. Some specialize in weapons, cash, and – of late – Hamas military commanders who seek to return to Gaza. Others carry food, medicine, computer equipment, and other day-to-day items. Still others – dug next to IDF positions so as to keep Hamas inspectors far away – carry dangerous drugs.

The London-based Economist quoted last month a tunnel worker who lamented that the increase in the number of tunnels, as well as the high taxation rate imposed by Hamas, has eaten significantly into tunnel-smuggling profits.

Former IDF Southern Command chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia recently wrote a paper for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in which he stated, “The Palestinians have brought into Gaza more than 30,000 rifles during the past two years, more than six million rounds of ammunition, more than 230 tons of explosives, and scores of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. These are the weapons Israel will face next time. The next round in Gaza will look more like Lebanon than what Israel faced in Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria in 2002, or in previous rounds in Gaza.”

Egypt announced last week that its forces had discovered two smuggling-tunnels. It has long been Israel’s position that Egypt is not doing nearly enough to stop the smuggling into Gaza.

In the fall of 2005, just weeks after the last Jew was forcibly removed from Gush Katif and other areas in Gaza, Israel transferred control of the Gaza-Egyptian border to Egypt. The agreement stipulated a 750-man Egyptian border force patrolling the border line known as the Philadelphi Route. This was contrary to the Israeli-Eyptian peace treaty of 1979, which banned any armed Egyptian presence in the Sinai Desert.

Israel has videotaped evidence of Egyptian assistance in smuggling Hamas terrorists through a fence, as well as proof of aid in tunnel-smuggling of arms. Israeli officials recently decided not to show US Congressmen videotapes of Egyptian policemen helping nearly 80 Hamas terrorists cross illegally into Gaza through a hole in the border fence. This, in order not to raise tensions between Israel and Egypt.

Instead, apparently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak will raise the arms-smuggling issue with his Egyptian counterparts when he visits Cairo later this week.

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