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Court hears case against Gaza-Egypt border barrier

June 29, 2010 - CAIRO

An administrative court hears a case by supporters of Gaza Strip Palestinians against the steel barrier Egypt is building to prevent tunneling under the Gaza-Egypt border. The Palestinian territory has been under a tighter Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade since 2007. Enforced to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Gaza, it cut off all but bare humanitarian aid to Gazans, who use the tunnels to bring in supplies of everything else -- at black market prices.

An administrative court hears a case by supporters of Gaza Strip Palestinians against the steel barrier Egypt is building to prevent tunneling under the Gaza-Egypt border. The Palestinian territory has been under a tighter Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade since 2007. Enforced to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Gaza, it cut off all but bare humanitarian aid to Gazans, who use the tunnels to bring in supplies of everything else-- at black market prices. Construction of the 7-mile barrier, which stretches 59 feet underground, began in 2009. A Sydney Morning Telegraph story on May 13 describes the Gaza Strip as the most densely populated strip of land in the world, with about 1.5 million people inhabiting its 29 by six miles. The strip has been under Israeli blockade for years, but it has been virtually isolated since 2007, with the intensification of territorial subjugation extending to sea, land and airspace. These spaces were effectively sealed to humanitarian organizations during the military campaign launched by Israel against Gaza in Dec 2009, when some 1400 Palestinians were killed. Reporting on the upcoming court case, the BBC noted that everything from fridges to fans, sheep to shampoo -- and even whole brand-new cars -- are being dragged through tunnels from Egypt. The United Nations estimates that as much as 80 per cent of imports into Gaza come through the tunnels. The supporters say the plan is a violation of international law. Egypt says it needs the barrier to protect its sovereignty and security. Aid agencies in Gaza say that if Israel or Egypt really forced the smuggling to stop, it would lead to an even more desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza which would be damaging to Israel's and Egypt's international reputations. A tunnel digger quoted on May 7 by the BBC said if they [Egypt] opened the border, we wouldn't need to dig tunnels. But until they do, we'll keep digging, whatever they do to try and stop us "We just cut through it using high-powered oxygen fuelled blow torches," he said. (Written May 2010)

Gazans cut through Egypt's border (BBC 14 May 2010)

A people who refuse to be vanished (SMH 13 May 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-06-29