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Thursday, November 12, 2009     GET REAL

Gaza tunnel industry takes toll on child laborers

GAZA CITY — A study has called attention to the major role played by Palestinian children in the smuggling tunnel industry in the Gaza Strip.   

The Palestinian National Society for Democracy and Law also reported that 32 Palestinian children have been killed in tunnel collapses since 2006.

The tunnel networks connect the Gaza Strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

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Children have comprised a leading element in the Palestinian tunnel industry.

Workers up to age 18 were categorized as children in the report. Over the last three years, a total of 117 Palestinians have been killed in the tunnels.

The report said children work for 12 hours a day in the tunnels, either as diggers or transporters.

The minors have been given drugs to keep them working, the report said. The Palestinian society cited Tramadol, a pain-killer.

"This work is very exhausting for children," the report said. "Many take pain-killers."

[On Nov. 11, Egyptian sources reported an ambush on a security patrol after authorities seized a shipment of smuggled goods heading for the Gaza Strip. The sources said 200 tons of cement were confiscated in eastern Sinai.]

The report said the danger to Palestinian minors has increased amid Israeli air strikes and Egyptian operations. Egypt has been accused of flooding the tunnels with water and gas.

"This kind of labor weakens the potential of future generations and hinders development of human resources," the report said.

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