Smuggling tunnel
Smuggling tunnelIsrael news photo: Flash 90

There are 600 millionaires living in  Gaza, which mainstream media for years have reported is an “humanitarian disaster” blamed on Israel for what was a partial blockade of materials that could possibly be used to build weapons manufacturing plants and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.

The blockade has been all but lifted, except for the maritime ban that a United Nations report has said is legal. It reached its conclusion after investigating the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla, led by Turkish IHH terrorists who tried tried to kill Israeli commandos on the high seas when the IDF stopped the boats from heading to the Hamas-controlled area.

Even before the land blockade, which has been lifted except for materials used directly for terror, smuggling has been a staple of the Gaza economy for decades,

Rafiah, a city which straddles both sides of the border between Gaza and Egypt, is the home of hundreds of underground tunnels that are used to transport everything imaginable – drugs, slave trade, cement, medicine, terrorists, advanced weapons, explosive and even vehicles.

The same tunnel have turned Gaza smugglers into millionaires, according to the Arabic language Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, quoted by Gatestone Institute contributor Khaled Abu Toameh

After years of headlines stating that a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza is imminent, the United Nations last year finally called off the warning, admitting there is no such thing.

By all accounts, Gaza is poor. It always has been, even more so under Egyptian control. The region began to prosper after the Six-Day War in 1967, when it came under Israeli jurisdiction.

New Jewish communities in Gush Katif and construction companies in southern Israel gave employment to tens of thousands of Gaza Arabs, and Jews frequently shopped in Gaza City and Khan Yunis.

The Intifada turned the economy on its head, slowing driving it into a recession as Jewish employers no longer could depend on workers not being terrorists.

With the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, also know as the Oslo War in memory of the failed peace accords, Hamas increased its grip on Gaza and eventually threw out the rival Fatah movement in a bloody civil war in 2007.

It now pockets millions of dollars in payments from tunnel smugglers, while restricting legal imports so that both tunnel owners and Hamas can benefit.

Egypt has occasionally blocked entrances to the tunnels in response to terror activity, including the murder of 16 soldiers at the beginning of August in attacks on bases in the Rafiah area.

“If Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of the Egyptian army's generals and keep them from completing the mission” of demolishing the tunnel smuggling system, “Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier,” wrote Toameh.

With an estimated 25 percent of Hamas’ government income coming from taxes on merchandise and owners of the tunnels, destroying them could infuriate Hamas as well as throw a monkey-wrench into what now is a stable but suppressive economy.

Egypt’s problem is that the same tunnels are used to smuggle advanced weapons for the use of Arab terrorists on both sides of Rafiah against the Muslim Brotherhood regime.