By Ola Attallah – Gaza City
Walking down the market in his Gaza neighborhood, hajj Abu Murad was baffled. A few days ago the market was almost deserted with shelves left empty because of the long-running Israeli blockade.
Now the shelves are stuffed and the shops are buzzing with shoppers and buyers.
"At first I thought the Israelis have finally opened the crossings," he told IslamOnline.net.
"Then I realized they are all Egyptian goods."
This year, Gaza is celebrating `Eid Al-Fitr, which began in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday, September 30, with a deluge of Egyptian goods arriving through tunnels dug across the Gaza-Egypt border.
Since Israel sealed off the impoverished coastal strip more than a year ago, smuggling basics through tunnels has become the only way for its besieged 1.6 million population to survive.
"You can get whatever you want through the tunnels," says Iyad, a merchant in a Gaza market.
"For the time being, what people need are `Eid goods."
But this has cost many precious lives.
Some 45 Palestinians have been killed this year, after being crushed or suffocated in the underground tunnels that run along Gaza’s 14-km border with Egypt.
Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas took control of the territory in June 2007 after routing rival Fatah.
An Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza was supposed to ease the Israeli closure.
But Israel is still closing all the Gaza crossings and allowing only limited humanitarian goods.
The tunnels provided a vital lifeline for Gazans who have nearly forgotten the taste of `Eid joy.
"My kitchen was almost empty and there was nothing to buy in the markets for months," says Um-Amer, who is now stockpiling on Egyptian goods.
Her neighbor Um-Ali is equally jubilant to find herself able to buy `Eid goods, new clothes and presents to her family.
"I looked around the markets, searching for good but cheap stuff," said the Gazan mother.
"Finally I bought new `Eid clothes for all my family."
Instead of returning empty handed, Hamed Al-Banna is going home with a big smile on his face after he managed to buy new `Eid toys for his kids.
"The markets were all dead in the past months. But the Egyptian goods breathed new life in it."
Starting from only few at the start of the siege, there are currently hundreds of makeshift tunnels along the border through which all types of hard-to-find goods are brought to Gaza.
The Egyptian goods will able Um-Raed to invite friends and neighbors during the three-day celebration.
"There was not a single glass in my house to offer my guests drinks," she said in a joyous voice after buying a new set.
"The Egyptians saved our `Eid."
– Ola Attallah is IslamOnline.net correspondent in Gaza. (This article was originally published on IslamOnline.net)