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The small country of Gaza is struggling to survive after a new Egyptian government, backed by the military, worked to shut down all smuggling tunnels that had been supporting the country’s existence.
After years of sanctions imposed by Israel, the people of Gaza had managed to create an economy that ran on the supply and trade of illegal goods smuggled into the country through hundreds of tunnels running beneath the border with Egypt.
The Muslim brotherhood, which used to run Egypt, was aware of the tunnels, but had allowed them to exist providing a precious lifeline to the Hamas Islamists, the controlling regime in Gaza.
Unfortunately the Egyptian military who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013, views Hamas as a threat, and so worked to crack down on the 1,200 tunnels running between Sinai and Gaza, to prevent all underground trade between the two countries.
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Whilst such a move has achieved the desired effect of restricting the supply of weapons to Hamas, it has also choked precious sources of construction materials, commercial goods, and cheap fuel.
As a result the only power plant has had to suspend operations, cutting off power to nearly half of the 1.8 million population, and forcing the country to rely on unreliable electricity supplied from Israel, which causes 12 hour blackouts each day.
Ahmed Hamid, a taxi driver in Gaza city, explained to Reuters that there is “no electricity. No power to heat the house when it pours with rain. We blame everyone. Leaders in Gaza, in the West Bank, even Obama. Whoever sees us and does nothing is responsible for our tragedy.”
Many in Gaza have now started to worry more about the economic crisis facing them than the constant war with Israel.
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Before the tunnels were shut Gaza’s economy was booming, growing at a rate of 12 percent during the first quarter of the year, according to the World Bank, and far better than the 0.6 percent contraction suffered by Palestine.
Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister in Gaza’s government, assured that, “we are sparing no effort to help our people exit the current crisis. We are speaking to every country and every party in order to find a solution.” Hamas has been trying to sort a deal with Egypt for the supply of fuel or power, as well as countries like Qatar and Iran.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com