Reverse smuggling: Now surplus consumer goods being sold to Egypt

Friday, January 21, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

GAZA CITY In a reversal of more than three decades of smuggling, Palestinian operators have been using some of the 1,500 tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip with the Sinai Peninsula to export goods to Egypt.

Palestinian sources said the latest flow stemmed from the flood of cheap goods sent from Israel to the Gaza Strip since last June.

"There is an overabundance of consumer goods, and they are so cheap that we could make a profit by selling it to the Egyptians," a Palestinian source said. "Of course, the only way we could get it to them is through the tunnels."

The sources said that no more than 10 percent of the tunnels have been operational since mid-2010. They cited an Egyptian crackdown as well as the influx of Israeli products that have been cheaper than those smuggled from Egypt.

The export tunnels were said to be virtually the only civilian smuggling facilities that still operate in the Gaza Strip. The sources also said scores of tunnels have been widened to smuggle automobiles and small trucks from Sinai.

The sources said at least 20 tunnels were involved in the export of Israeli goods to Egypt. They cited poultry and metal, said to garner high demand among the Bedouins in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel, under severe international pressure, eased its blockade in June in wake of the bloody interception of a Turkish-flagged flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Shipments from Israel to the Gaza Strip have nearly doubled and now include such long-banned items such as construction materials.

The sources said Hamas controls at least 100 tunnels with some of its Palestinian militia allies. They said these tunnels were meant for the import of missiles, rockets and explosives from Sinai.

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