Gaza's tunnels rebound from Israeli offensive
After the November fighting, Israel and Hamas began indirect, Egyptian-led talks over new border arrangements. The militants want Israel to lift what remains of its blockade. In return, Israel demands an end to arms smuggling into Gaza. The talks promise to be difficult, and no decisions have been made, though contacts continue.
As part of these talks, Ghussein, the Hamas spokesman, said his government wants Egypt to expand a passenger terminal in Rafah to handle cargo as well. This would replace the tunnels, he said, and reduce Gaza’s reliance on Israeli crossings.
Although Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent movement of Hamas, it has not thrown open the border, fearful of alienating its top aid patron, the U.S. A senior Hamas official said Egypt also has linked an expansion of Rafah to reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions.
During his visit to Gaza, Mashaal vowed that his movement would continue its armed struggle ‘‘to retake Palestine,’’ including Israel, ‘‘inch by inch.’’
Given the many obstacles to Palestinian reconciliation and the deep hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the smuggling tunnels will likely continue to operate.
At the border with Egypt, a man who would identify himself only as Alaa said he was six meters (yards) short of completing a new, 20-meter (20-yard) tunnel.
‘‘That’s my Egyptian partner, we own the tunnel and share the profits,’’ he said, pointing to a two-story house on the Egyptian side. He declined to give his full name, fearing for his safety if he discussed the illicit trade.
Workers at another tunnel were loading a truck with cooking gas canisters, others with car parts, and still others with canned food.