Besides the really terrible ew factor, the consequences for the environment are as equally yuck: the Egyptian army is looking to stall and stop Gazan smugglers from digging tunnels from the Gaza Strip to Egypt’s Sinai have found a new and dirty way to flush out smugglers: they are pouring raw sewage into the underground tunnels. Leaders in Gaza are trying to figure out how this tactic bodes for future relations with the Islamic leaders in Egypt.
For the Palestinian smugglers, the tunnels are the only free-market lifeline to the outside world. Through the tunnels, important commodities otherwise unavailable in Gaza are smuggled through –- including live animals, some fit for the badly managed Gaza zoo, like lions. The smugglers have also known to smuggle in car parts later assembled into complete cars on the other side of the tunnel. But generally food, cement and other building materials are smuggled through since borders between Egypt and Gaza, and Israel and Gaza have been restricted and tightly monitored.
But to make peace accords stick between Israel and Egypt, Egypt’s new government has no choice but to enforce the borders between Gaza and Egypt-controlled Sinai. The tunnels are not only used for goods into Gaza, they are used to transport weapons.
According to the NY Times “concern in Cairo about the tunnels spiked last August, when 16 Egyptian soldiers died in a militant attack on a military outpost in Sinai. The Egyptian government believes the attackers came through the tunnels.”
In the past Egypt flooded the tunnels with gas, something which was easily pumped out with clean air. The raw sewage appears to be a more effective, if not offensive, way of stopping the smugglers.
“Palestinians say that so far the flooding has hurt individual livelihoods but not the total volume of goods moving below ground. On Wednesday, about two cargo trucks per minute were pulling out of the main smuggling zone inside Gaza, laden with cement, gravel, canned food, citrus and vegetables. Hamas customs officers kept a record of each truck and load,” reports the New York Times.
Meanwhile the workers in the hundreds of tunnels that exist linking the borders are working hard to pull out the sewage. We can’t imagine what this does to the moral and health of the people in Gaza, but we do hope that peaceful and quiet times are ahead so that sewage can be channels to its rightful place.
Above image via the NYTimes