Heavy rains force Hamas to close Gaza tunnels

Islamist faction shuts smuggling routes after collapses kill several Palestinian workers

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

A smuggling tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)
A smuggling tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip on Thursday ordered the closure of smuggling tunnels running beneath the Egyptian border, due to the inclement weather.

Several Palestinian smugglers died recently after the heavy rains caused their tunnels to collapse, according to Israel Radio. The report added that Hamas reportedly demands the tunnel owners compensate the families of the victims with $10,000.

Last month, Hamas officials had also announced the closure of the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt, due to heavy rains. Several smugglers were reportedly buried during the January storm as well.

The tunnels are one of the main sources of income for Hamas, which also uses them to smuggle in weapons. Black-market goods — from livestock to cars and phones — are transported from the Sinai Peninsula into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Airstrikes on the tunnels by IAF fighter jets during Operation Pillar of Defense in November met with some success, but the tunnels’ operation never ceased completely.

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