Egypt Tunnel Closure ‘Costs Gaza $230 Million Monthly’

Egypt’s closure of tunnels used to smuggle goods into the Gaza Strip has caused monthly losses of $230 million to its economy, a Hamas official said Sunday.

The “closure of the tunnels caused heavy losses to the industry, commerce, agriculture, transport and construction sectors” of around $230 million monthly, said Hatem Oweida, deputy economy minister of Hamas.

Essential materials were for years smuggled from Egypt into Gaza through tunnels, bypassing Israel’s blockade, but the Egyptian army recently destroyed many of those after ousting President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Hamas ally.

Oweida said that the coastal Palestinian territory had relied on the tunnels to meet at least 40 percent of its construction supplies and raw material needs.

Gaza’s unemployment rate would hit 43 percent if official border crossings remained shut and the tunnels were destroyed, Oweida warned.

He added that “public revenues saw a decline after the closure of the tunnels and the tightening of the siege in the second half of 2013,” which he said would hit Hamas’ employment and temporary work programs.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.

The blockade was imposed following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Palestinians in Gaza.

(Ma’an and Agencies – www.maannews.net)

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