A recent clampdown by Egypt has resulted in the destruction or closure of around 80 percent of the smuggling tunnels running from the country into the Gaza Strip, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Cairo began its crackdown on the tunnels after a spike in violence in Sinai a year ago, highlighted by the murder of 16 Egyptian soldiers at the hands of jihadi militants. Since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi at the beginning of the month, the military has redoubled its campaign as violent attacks in the Sinai mount.
According to The Times, Hamas’s ability to pay the 50,ooo workers in its employ has become tenuous because the terror organization relies on the taxes it collects from the underground trade for revenue.
Omar Shaban, a Gaza economist and the director of PalThink, an independent research institute, told The Times the tunnel trade made up about a third of the estimated $900 million Hamas budget.
Ala Al-Rafati, the Hamas economy minister,told Reuters that the tunnel closures since June had cost Gaza around $230 million – around a tenth of the GDP of the territory.