Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Israel eases its Gaza blockade, smuggling tunnels go unused

I've written quite a bit in the past about the flourishing smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt which supplied the blockaded territory with goods not available through legitimate trade (one source put the number at 90%, though I can't vouch for this figure). The tunnels were dangerous and Hamas was known to tax them, but they served their purpose.

It looks like now, however, they are falling into disuse as Israel has eased its blockade:

"Israel now allows more food, different kinds of it, juice, electrical equipment and even fridges, therefore merchants shifted their business to the old regular way and abandoned tunnels," he added.

Israel relaxed its restrictions in June in the wake of its raid to halt a blockade-running flotilla from reaching Gaza in a military operation that killed nine activists and drew widespread international condemnation.

While counterfactuals are difficult, this easing appears to be a direct result of the Gaza flotilla raid and the attention that it brought to the situation. At the time, I thought the activists were drawing more attention to themselves than anything else – there were way more people on the "aid" boats than there needed to be, and the used clothing and toys that made up the bulk of the cargo were relatively useless. But I suppose now that the blockade has been eased, I stand corrected.

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