RAMALLAH, September 30 (JMCC) - The Egyptian government has been cracking down on the illicit tunnels that run into the Gaza Strip, forcing hundreds of Palestinians to lose their jobs, reports
The measure comes on top of a blockade of Gaza, imposed by Israel, that prevents the movement of people and goods and has resulted in extremely difficult economic conditions.
“Soaring unemployment is a result of systematic Israeli policies, including completely denying the Gaza labour force from the Israeli market,” says Shaheen. Palestinian labourers formerly worked in Israeli construction and labour, he says. “Palestinian workers were highly skilled in all aspects of construction.”
Jaber, father of six children, is out of farm labour, work in Israel, and any of the potential fields he is skilled at working in. “Ten years ago I worked in Israel, as a mechanic, on farms, in construction, various jobs. Since the borders closed, I haven’t had solid work, I’ve only done odd jobs but that doesn’t suffice to care for my children.”
The few jobs that remain in Gaza under siege are some of the most dangerous.
“Even though it’s dangerous work, the tunnels are a source income for unemployed workers and their families,” says PCHR’s Shaheen. “But the average daily wage has dropped from 100 or more dollars to about ten dollars.”
The risks for such a pittance are enormous. According to medics, since 2006 more than 160 Palestinians have died while working in tunnels.
“The majority were killed and injured by Israeli bombings of the tunnels, or tunnel collapse and consequent suffocation, or electrocution,” says Shaheen.
In the past two months, Egyptian authorities have been destroying and closing tunnels. Shaheen estimates that at least 150 tunnels have been totally destroyed, and another 150 shut down. “Forty thousand used to work in the tunnels. Now its 5,000 at best,” he says.
“Even children help contribute to their families’ income,” says Shaheen. “All over the Gaza Strip children are in the street trying to sell chocolates, gum, and trinkets.”