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      Rafiah Opening Hurts Tunnel Trade

      Egypt's decision to open the Rafiah crossing deals a heavy blow to one of Gaza's few industries – the tunnel smuggling trade.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 6/11/2010, 1:03 PM / Last Update: 6/11/2010, 2:28 PM

      Flash 90

      Egypt's decision to open the Rafiah crossing with Gaza until further notice has dealt a heavy blow to one of Gaza's few successful industries – the smuggling tunnel trade. Workers in the hundreds of tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt confirmed that their salaries have dropped sharply almost overnight.

      One smuggler, a resident of the northern Sinai, said smugglers who had previously charged $300 to bring a 40-kilogram load into Gaza now charge only $25 for the same material.

      A worker in Rafiah said the most popular smuggled merchandise is building supplies, including cement, paint, doors, and glass.

      There are an estimated 800 tunnels running under Rafiah. It costs at least $70,000 to construct a tunnel, and can cost over $100,000. In addition to construction costs, tunnel operators must pay tax to Hamas.

      Most tunnel operators quickly gain back their investment and more. Operators can earn 35-40 million dollars a month smuggling black market goods, drugs and weapons. Smuggled goods include even items such as motorcycles and luxury cars.