Residents in bid to open Gaza tunnels glin

Nidal al-Mughrabi

Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA - Hundreds of Palestinians came to the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to try to repair smuggling tunnels bombed by Israel during a 22-day offensive and restore a commercial lifeline to the Hamas-ruled territory.

Residents along the border, where some Palestinians own tunnels and run them as businesses, said shipments of fuel and kerosene stoves had been moving through the several dozen tunnels, out of hundreds, that were still functioning.

Tunnel-owner Mohammed said he and three partners had paid $40 000 (about R320 000) to build their supply line.

Hamas and other militant groups use their own tunnels to smuggle in weapons but journalists do not have access to them and it was impossible to see whether they had resumed operation.

Israel has threatened new military action to prevent Hamas from replenishing the rocket arsenal it used to strike southern Israeli towns. Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, three days after separate ceasefires declared by Israel and Hamas went into effect.

In the southern town of Rafah, hundreds of Palestinians who own a financial stake in tunnels checked on their status yesterday and began repair work under the cover of tents.

Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip has turned tunnels into a big business. - Reuters