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Death toll in Gaza hits 40 as 9 killed in series of strikes
Official: Hamas willing to close down tunnels
Published Tuesday 21/05/2013 (updated) 23/05/2013 15:56
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GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza is willing to close down all smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border once a commercial crossing opens, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

"We do not want the tunnels in the first place," said Ghazi Hamad. "They burden citizens and cause hundreds of fatalities, but they are essential because there is no alternative."

"The tunnels issue can be resolved by finding a solution that balances the security needs of Egypt and the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip through lawful commercial transactions monitored by both," he added in a statement.

The tunnel industry thrived under Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, providing a lifeline by smuggling goods into the besieged enclave. Egypt has cracked down on the network, flooding tunnels with sewage over fears that they are being used to smuggle weapons and fighters into the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt's reopening of the Rafah crossing on its border with Gaza in May 2011 eased travel for Palestinians, many of whom had not been able to leave the enclave since 2007. However, commercial goods do not pass through the terminal, and Palestinians in Gaza still rely on the tunnels.

On Friday, Egyptian police closed the Rafah terminal in protest at the kidnapping by gunmen of seven Egyptian servicemen, several of whom worked at the crossing.

Hamad said the closure had added to the misery of Palestinians in Gaza, particularly students and sick people stranded at the border.

He added that Israel was the only beneficiary of strained relations between Egypt and Gaza, and that residents of Gaza suffered the most from the tension.

Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah crossing with Gaza closed for a fifth consecutive day on Tuesday, despite efforts by Palestinian officials to reopen the terminal.

A Gaza based center for human rights said that over 2,400 Palestiniansv were stranded at both sides of the crossing. The group urged Egyptian authorities to open the crossing and "exclude it from the internal affairs of both sides."

Passengers told Ma'an on Monday that they were making do with cardboard and newspapers to sleep at night, and to avoid the heat of the sun during the day. Some sleep in mosques, and very few can afford to pay for a hotel room in el-Arish.

Some passengers have managed to enter Gaza through smuggling tunnels.
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1 ) Aatirah / Egypt
21/05/2013 18:51
Bring our seven boys home now.

2 ) Major source of income to / CORRUPT HAMAS
21/05/2013 19:08
AND EGYPTIANS SOLDIERS NOTHING WILL BE CLOSED!!

3 ) Border / Crossing
21/05/2013 20:07
Amazing - Egyptians - arab brothers do not like palestinians at all. But, of cause, they can always complain to UN, UNESCO, FIFA, Arab League etc.

4 ) john p / usa
21/05/2013 20:09
I love that line. they would be willing to close something that is illegal to begin with in return for another country opening its borders

5 ) Pro Pal / UK
22/05/2013 09:53
Gaza/Egypt tunnel business is a big industry of smugglers making money out of the misery of Palestinians.

6 ) Jossef / US
22/05/2013 19:21
Only people disconnected from reality can take seriously promises from Hamas. Hamas has violated almost every promise it ever made, most importantly promises it made to Gazans themselves. Hamas will not shut the tunnels for two reasons: 1) they are a good source of revenues for Hamas, 2) Hamas does not want anyone to know what moves in-and-out of Gaza.

7 ) Sheila Barthol / USA
22/05/2013 20:30
These people have created their own misery. They have been provided with funds in the billions from Israel, the US and other countries and yet all they do is use it for evil. I have no sympathy for murderers and terrorists. They are causing their own suffering yet use the mess they created to encourage others to pity them. It's manipulation and lies to secure pity for evil doers.

8 ) Tim Upham / United States
22/05/2013 22:15
High time. Those tunnels are detrimental to Israel, Egypt, and Gaza. The economy of Gaza can ben ran on something more realistic and sustainable, than those criminal tunnels. Now Hamas is doing the citizens of Gaza a favor, why do not they continue the favor by recognizing the State of Israel. The potential for joint Palestinian-Israeli business ventures is enormous. Israel has offered to help Gaza develop its share of the Tamar natural gas fields.
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