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The smuggling tunnels area, also called Philadelphia corner, in Rafah at the border with Egypt. Gaza 2011

This tunnel, shown in 2011, is in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip at the border with Egypt.

Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, Magnum Photos

James Verini

for National Geographic

Published July 21, 2014

An Israeli military spokesperson's remark that "all of Gaza is an underground city" because of its extensive network of tunnels and bunkers is an exaggeration. But there is some truth to it.

The Israeli Defense Force says that Operation Protective Edge, its incursion into Gaza that began last week, is meant to prevent Hamas attacks on Israel. And those attacks, it appears, depend on tunnels.

Gaza citizens have been digging and using tunnels for years.

Until recently, though, the tunnels extended only into Egypt and were used mainly to smuggle in consumer goods. Because of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, introduced when Hamas won elections in 2007 and relaxed only recently, many items—foodstuffs, gas, clothing, cars—were unavailable through normal trade.

Now citizens of Gaza appear to be applying tunnel thinking to its attack strategy. A new network of Hamas-built tunnels into Israel was created expressly for launching attacks, according to news reports.

Operation Protective Edge began last Thursday after 13 Palestinian fighters emerged from a tunnel near a kibbutz in southern Israel.

Since then, Israel has released videos of its soldiers destroying tunnels. "There is a world of weapons tunnels penetrating into Israel, creating the possibility of a mega-attack," an Israeli minister told reporters.

In a public statement released as the incursion began, Hamas said that the new tunnels—some of which apparently extend hundreds of yards into Israeli territory—are just one of the "surprises" it has in store for Israelis.

The tunnels represent "a new strategy in confronting the occupation and in the conflict with the enemy from underground and from above the ground," former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has said.

There are connections between the Egyptian and Israeli tunnel networks. It's believed Hamas used the Egyptian tunnels to smuggle firearms and rockets—weapons that are now being used against the Israelis—into Gaza.

And the cement used to build Hamas's network of underground bunkers probably came, in part, from Egypt. The same may true of the materials used to build the new tunnels that go into Israel.

When Egypt destroyed most of the older smuggling tunnels last year, it deprived Hamas of a vital source of revenue. The group's inability to provide for Gazans, worsened by its lack of funds, has turned some against Hamas.

Photographer Paolo Pellegrin and I traveled to Gaza to report on the Egypt tunnels for a 2012 National Geographic magazine story. Here is our report:

The Tunnels of Gaza: For many Palestinians, they have come to symbolize ingenuity and the dream of mobility.

For as long as they worked in the smuggling tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip, Samir and his brother Yussef suspected they might one day die in them. When Yussef did die, on a cold night in 2011, his end came much as they'd imagined it might, under a crushing hail of earth.

It was about 9 p.m., and the brothers were on a night shift doing maintenance on the tunnel, which, like many of its kind—and there are hundreds stretching between Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula—was lethally shoddy in its construction. Nearly a hundred feet below Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city, Samir was working close to the entrance, while Yussef and two co-workers, Kareem and Khamis, were near the middle of the tunnel. They were trying to wedge a piece of plywood into the wall to shore it up when it began collapsing. Kareem pulled Khamis out of the way, as Yussef leaped in the other direction. For a moment the surge of soil and rocks stopped, and seeing that his friends were safe, Yussef yelled out to them, "Alhamdulillah!—Thank Allah!"

This Gazan university student works in a tunnel, hauling goods to earn money for tuition. Many workers put in 12-hour shifts six days a week—or more—in the cramped spaces. Gas explosions, electrocutions, and Israeli air strikes are common.
This Gazan university student works in a tunnel in 2011, hauling goods to earn money for tuition. Many workers put in 12-hour shifts six days a week—or more—in the cramped spaces. Gas explosions, electrocutions, and Israeli air strikes are common.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, Magnum Photos

Then the tunnel gave way again, and Yussef disappeared.

Samir heard the crashing sounds over the radio system. He took off into the tunnel, running at first and then, as the opening got narrower and lower, crawling. He had to fight not to faint as the air became clouded with dust. It was nearly pitch black when he finally found Kareem and Khamis digging furiously with their hands. So Samir started digging. The tunnel began collapsing again. A concrete-block pillar slashed Kareem's arm. "We didn't know what to do. We felt helpless," Samir told me.

After three hours of digging, they uncovered a blue tracksuit pant leg. "We tried to keep Samir from seeing Yussef, but he refused to turn away," Khamis told me. Screaming and crying, Samir frantically tore the rocks off his brother. "I was moving but unconscious," he said. Yussef's chest was swollen, his head fractured and bruised. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth. They dragged him to the entrance shaft on the Gazan side, strapped his limp body into a harness, and workers at the surface pulled him up. There wasn't room for Samir in the car that sped his brother to Rafah's only hospital, so he raced behind on a bicycle. "I knew my brother was dead," he said.

I was sitting with Samir, 26, in what passed for Yussef's funeral parlor, an unfinished-concrete room on the ground floor of the apartment block in the Jabalia refugee camp where the brothers grew up. Outside, in a trash-strewn alley, was a canvas tent that shaded the many mourners who had come to pay their respects over the previous three days. The setting was a typical Gazan tableau: concrete-block walls pocked by gunfire and shrapnel from Israeli incursions and the bloodletting of local factions, children digging in the dirt with kitchen spoons, hand-cranked generators thrumming—yet another Gaza power outage—their diesel exhaust filling the air.

"I was so scared," Samir said, referring to the day in 2008 when he joined Yussef to work in the tunnels. "I didn't want to, but I had no choice." Thin, dressed in sweatpants, a brown sweater, dark socks, and open-toe sandals, Samir was nervous and fidgety. Like the others in the room, he was chain-smoking. "You can die at any moment," he said. Some of the tunnels Yussef and Samir worked in were properly maintained—well built, ventilated—but many more were not. Tunnel collapses are frequent, as are explosions, air strikes, and fires. "We call it tariq al shahada ao tariq al mawt," Samir said—"a way to paradise or a way to death."

Everybody, it seemed, had injuries or health problems. Yussef had developed a chronic respiratory illness. Khamis's leg had been broken in a collapse. Their co-worker Suhail pulled up his shirt to show me an inches-long scar along his spine, a permanent reminder of the low ceilings. "In Rafah," Samir said, "it felt like a bad omen was present all the time. We always expected something bad to happen."

A new tunnel owner, in white cap, watches his son descend into the well shaft to continue digging. Wealthy owners can afford mechanized winches, but this man, who saved for years to get a share of the tunnel trade, must rely on his family and a horse.
A new tunnel owner, in white cap, watches as his son descends into the well shaft in 2011 to continue digging. Wealthy owners can afford mechanized winches, but this man, who saved for years to get a share of the tunnel trade, must rely on his family and a horse.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

In the Gaza Strip today hero status is no longer reserved for the likes of Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Yassin—the late leaders, respectively, of Fatah and the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas—or for Palestinians who've died in the fighting that has rocked this wisp of land since its creation 63 years ago. Now tunnel victims like Yussef—28 when he died—are also honored.

"Everybody loved him," Samir said. He was "so kindhearted." On the walls of the makeshift funeral parlor hung posters with Koranic verses of sympathy sent by the family that ran the grade school where Yussef had studied, by the imam of his mosque, and by the local functionaries of Gaza's bitter political rivals: Fatah, the former ruling party, and Hamas, the militant group that now governs the strip. The most prominent poster was from the local mukhtar, a traditional Arab leader. It showed Yussef in a photograph taken five months earlier, on his wedding day. He was wearing a white dress shirt and a pink tie. He had short-cropped hair and eager, gentle eyes. The poster read, "The sons of the mukhtar share condolences with the family in the martyrdom of the hero Yussef."

The Rafah underground isn't new—there have been smuggling tunnels here since 1982, when the city was split following the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which left part of it in Gaza and part in Egypt. Back then the tunnel well shafts were dug in home basements. The Israeli military, knowing that the tunnels were used for arms trafficking, began demolishing homes that harbored tunnels, as did some Palestinians who wanted to keep the tunnel economy under their control. When that didn't end the smuggling, Israel later expanded the demolitions, creating a buffer zone between the border and the city. According to Human Rights Watch, some 1,700 homes were destroyed from 2000 to 2004.

Gaza's tunnels became imprinted on the Israeli public consciousness in 2006, when a group of Hamas-affiliated militants emerged in Israel near a border crossing and abducted Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Shalit became the embodiment of a ceaseless war, his face staring out from roadside billboards much like the faces on martyrdom posters that adorn the walls in Jabalia and the other camps. (He was finally released in a prisoner exchange in the fall of 2011.)

After Hamas won elections in 2006, it and Fatah fought a vicious civil war—which Hamas won the next year, taking control of the Gaza Strip—and Israel introduced an incrementally tightening economic blockade. It closed ports of entry and banned the importation of nearly everything that would have allowed Gazans to live above a subsistence level. Egypt cooperated.

Since Hosni Mubarak's departure in early 2011, Egyptian officials have expressed remorse for cooperating with Israel. Egypt has reopened the small Rafah border crossing, though it still prevents some Gazans from coming through. Its new president, Mohamed Morsi, who wants to keep Hamas at a distance, has not pledged to help Gaza in a way that many Gazans had hoped he would. In August, after a group of 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by gunmen in northern Sinai, Egypt temporarily shut down the Rafah crossing and demolished at least 35 tunnels.

Lamb is a luxury most Gazans can afford only on important Muslim holidays. With many farms devastated by war, and with other land lying unproductive in areas restricted by Israel, livestock comes in by tunnel from Egypt.
Lamb is a luxury most Gazans can afford only on important Muslim holidays. With many farms devastated by war, and with other land lying unproductive in areas restricted by Israel, livestock often comes in by tunnel from Egypt.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

After Israel introduced the blockade, smuggling became Gaza's alternative. Through the tunnels under Rafah came everything from building materials and food to medicine and clothing, from fuel and computers to livestock and cars. Hamas smuggled in weapons. New tunnels were dug by the day—by the hour, it seemed—and new fortunes minted. Families sold their possessions to buy in. Some 15,000 people worked in and around the tunnels at their peak, and they provided ancillary work for tens of thousands more, from engineers and truck drivers to shopkeepers. Today Gaza's underground economy accounts for two-thirds of consumer goods, and the tunnels are so common that Rafah features them in official brochures.

"We did not choose to use the tunnels," a government engineer told me. "But it was too hard for us to stand still during the siege and expect war and poverty." For many Gazans, the tunnels, lethal though they can be, symbolize better things: their native ingenuity, the memory and dream of mobility, and perhaps most significant for a population defined by dispossession, a sense of control over the land. The irony that control must be won by going beneath the land is not lost on Gazans.

The region of Gaza has been fought over—and burrowed under—since long before Israel assumed control of it from Egypt in 1967. In 1457 B.C. Pharaoh Thutmose III overran Gaza while quashing a Canaanite rebellion. He then held a banquet, which he enjoyed so much that he ordered chiseled into the Temple of Amun at Karnak: "Gaza was a flourishing and enchanting city." Thutmose was followed by Hebrews, Philistines, Persians, Alexander the Great (whose siege of Gaza City required digging beneath its walls), Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Tatars, Mamluks, and Ottomans. Then came Napoleon, the British, Egyptians again, and Israelis, though to this day there is disagreement about whether Gaza would have been considered part of the land the Bible says God promised the Jews. This is partly why expansionist-minded Israelis have focused more intensely on the West Bank than on Gaza; the last Israeli settlement in Gaza was vacated in 2005.

But Gaza is the heart of Palestinian resistance. It's been the launching area for a campaign, now in its third decade, of kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket and mortar assaults on Israel by Gazan militants—much of this sanctioned, if not expressly carried out, by Hamas.

The tunnels supply the government with all the materials used in public works projects, and Hamas taxes everything that comes through them, shutting down operators who don't pay up. Tunnel revenue is estimated to provide Hamas with as much as $750 million a year. Hamas has also smuggled in cash from exiled leaders and patrons in Syria, Iran, and Qatar that helps keep it afloat.

Samir told me that Hamas leaders and local officials are in business with tunnel operators, protecting them from prosecution when workers like his brother die needlessly. He's convinced that corruption and bribery are rampant. His friends agreed. "Damn the municipality!" Suhail blurted out as Samir spoke.

In 2010, after Israeli naval commandos attacked a Turkish flotilla off the Gaza coast, to international outrage, Israel said it had relaxed the blockade. But today there is still only one ill-equipped access point for goods, whereas the West Bank has many more. Israel makes it extremely difficult and expensive for the UN's Relief and Works Agency and other aid agencies—the source of life and livelihood for thousands of the 1.6 million Gazans—to import basic materials for rebuilding projects, such as machinery, fuel, cement, and rebar.

Merchants and restaurateurs congregate at a tunnel that specializes in smuggling in fresh fish from Egypt, packed on ice in Styrofoam boxes. Israel’s naval blockade keeps Gazan fishermen close to shore, so seafood is always in demand.
Shown in 2011, merchants and restaurateurs congregate at a tunnel that specializes in smuggling in fresh fish from Egypt, packed on ice in Styrofoam boxes. Israel's naval blockade keeps Gazan fishermen close to shore, so seafood is always in demand.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

According to a Gazan customs official I spoke with, the spring of 2011 saw imports at their lowest level since the blockade began. And what did get through, he said, was often degraded: used clothing and appliances, junk food, castoff produce. It was impossible "to meet basic needs," the official said, insisting that the hesar, or siege, as Gazans call it, was crippling them. Even some of Israel's oldest supporters agreed. British Prime Minister David Cameron lamented that under the blockade, Gaza had come to resemble a "prison camp."

Photographer Paolo Pellegrin and I made many trips to Rafah's tunnels. The drive from Gaza City, an hour to the north, afforded a dolorous tour. The aftermath of the civil war and of Israel's most recent invasion of the strip—Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09—was evident everywhere. Stepping out of our hotel each morning, often after a night torn open by Israeli air strikes on reported militant hideouts, we took in the absurd sight of a five-story elevator shaft standing alone against the skyline, the hotel that had once surrounded it reduced to rubble. The Palestinian Authority's former security headquarters cowered nearby, a yawning missile hole in its side. Bullet-chewed facades and minarets marked the horizon.

Driving south, we passed Arafat's bombed-out former compound, littered with rusted vehicles, then proceeded along the coastline, once one of the prettiest on the eastern Mediterranean but now home to the skeletons of seaside cafés and to fetid tide pools. Heading inland, we passed abandoned Israeli settlements, their fields sanded over, their greenhouses lying in tatters. South of Rafah the ruins of the Gaza Airport languished as if in a Claude Lorrain landscape—used only by herders grazing their sheep and Bedouin their camels. Our interpreter, Ayman, told us that after the airport was built, he was so proud of it that he took his family there on weekends for picnics. "Look at the destruction," he said, shaking his head. "Everything. Everything is ... destructed." "Destructed" is a favorite malapropism of Ayman's. It's apt. "Destroyed" doesn't quite capture the quality of ruination in Gaza. "Destructed," with its ring of inordinate purpose, does.

As we arrived in Rafah, life teemed again. A byword for conflict, Gaza is also synonymous in Middle Eastern memory with that other staple of human history, commerce. Armies marching into the desert depended on its gushing wells and fortress walls, but to merchants through the millennia, Gaza was a maritime spur of the spice routes and agricultural trade. Travelers sought out its cheap tobacco and brothels, and even today Israeli chefs covet its strawberries and quail. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, Gaza and Israel enjoyed a symbiotic commercial relationship not unlike that of Mexico and the U.S. Gazan craftsmen and laborers crossed the border every morning to work in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while Israelis shopped in the tax-free bazaars of Gaza City, Khan Younis, and especially Rafah, which some old Gazans still call Souk al Bahrain: "the market of the two seas." The first intifada, which lasted from 1987 to 1993, put an end to much of that.

Passing a jammed intersection overlooked by a Hamas billboard showing a masked militant wielding a bazooka, we entered the Rafah market. The din and fumes of generators commingled with the shouts of vendors, the braying of donkeys, and the sweet smoke of shawarma spits. Block after block of shops and stands sold consumer items, much of which had come through the tunnels.

Members of the militant group Islamic Jihad patrol the border with Israel to prevent incursions by the Israel Defense Forces. The average Gazan family has six people, and with so few jobs to be had, disaffected young men are drawn to extremist groups.
Members of the militant group Islamic Jihad (here in 2011) patrol the border with Israel to prevent incursions by the Israel Defense Forces. The average Gazan family has six people, and with so few jobs to be had, disaffected young men are drawn to extremist groups.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

It's no secret that Gaza's tunnel operators are brazen, the more so since the Arab Spring began. Just how brazen was not apparent until we emerged from the market, and an expanse of white tarpaulin tent roofs opened up before us. It stretched along the border wall in both directions, tent after tent as far as the eye could see. Beneath each was a tunnel. They were all in the so-called Philadelphi route, the patrol zone created by the Israeli military as part of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. All were in full view of Egyptian surveillance towers and sniper nests.

Unable to hide my astonishment, I exclaimed to no one in particular, "This must be the biggest smuggling operation on Earth."

Every few hundred yards bored-looking cops barely out of adolescence sat outside tents and shacks, AK-47s on their knees. Hamas forbids journalists here, so we drove to the farthest end of the corridor and parked behind a dirt hill. Furtively, we walked into the first tent we saw. There we met Mahmoud, a man in his 50s who used to work on a farm in Israel. He lost his job when the border was closed during the second intifada, so he and a group of partners pooled their savings. In 2006 they started digging, and a year later they had a tunnel.

After nervous negotiations with Ayman, Mahmoud agreed to show me how it worked. "Come here," he said, leading me to the well shaft. Suspended over it was a crossbar with a pulley, from which hung the harness for lifting and lowering goods and workers. The harness was attached to a spool of metal cable on a winch that could lower a worker the 60 or so feet down the shaft to the tunnel opening. Mahmoud's tunnel was about 400 yards long, but some can extend half a mile. On this day boxes of clothing, mobile phones, sugar, and detergent were coming in; the day before it had been four tons of wheat. Mahmoud earned anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars a shipment, depending on what he brought in. Like many tunnel operators, he made enough to keep his tunnel open and support his family but not much more.

Five to 12 men work in 12-hour shifts, day and night, six days a week, and Mahmoud communicated with them via a two-way radio that had receivers throughout the tunnel. The men earned around $50 a shift but sometimes went weeks or months between payments. On the dirt floor beneath the tarpaulin were dusty cushions where they could rest after a shift. There was also a charred black kettle on the remnants of a wood fire, a strand of prayer beads, and stacks of halved plastic jerricans, the ad hoc sleds that are used to move goods along the tunnel floor.

"Would you like to go down?" Mahmoud asked. Before I could say no, I said yes. Moments later his men were enthusiastically strapping me into the harness and lowering me into the cool, dank well. I tried to imagine what it would be like if this were my daily routine, going to work by descending six stories into the earth at the end of a cable. At the bottom it was chaotic: dim lightbulbs flickering, radio traffic blaring, dust-covered workers hauling sacks out of the sleds. The mouth of the tunnel was large enough to accommodate several stooping men, but it soon became so narrow that I had to crouch, my shoulders scraping the walls.

Gazans fix a donkey cart for collecting mountains of rubble left in 2008-09 by Operation Cast Lead, a military campaign in Gaza launched by Israel, officially in response to ongoing rocket fire from the strip. Rubble is recycled into gravel for new construction.
Gazans fix a donkey cart in 2011 for collecting mountains of rubble left in 2008-09 by Operation Cast Lead, a military campaign in Gaza launched by Israel, officially in response to ongoing rocket fire from the strip. Rubble is recycled into gravel for new construction.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

When I got back to the surface, a group of police suddenly appeared. They had seen our car. "You shouldn't be here," their leader said. Ayman apologized, and soon the officer was regaling me with his account of uncovering a load of cocaine and hashish at a tunnel the day before. Smuggling drugs is lucrative but very risky. They arrested the operator, the officer said, and the well was filled in. He then ordered Paolo and me to go, saying we'd have to get permission from the central government in Gaza City if we intended to come back. "Don't go into the tunnels," another cop warned. "You'll die."

In the tunnels death comes from every direction. One operator told of the time he tried to smuggle in a lion for a Gaza zoo. The animal was improperly sedated, awoke in the tunnel mid-trip, and tore one of the workers apart. Another operator showed me a video on his mobile phone of three skinny young men lying dead on gurneys. They were his cousins, he said, and had worked in his tunnel. I asked why they had no contusions or broken limbs. "They were gassed," was the reply. According to some Palestinians, when Egypt has been pressed by Israel to cut down on smuggling, its troops have occasionally poisoned the air in tunnels by pumping in gas. Egypt has denied this.

After days of wrangling with assorted offices, we returned to the tunnel corridor. Word had spread that an American reporter was snooping around, and even with our official escort, many operators shunned us. But some warmed up.

The most welcoming was Abu Jamil, a white-haired grandfather and the unofficial mukhtar of the Philadelphi corridor. Abu Jamil is credited with having opened the first full-time tunnel. It quickly attracted too much business to be serviced by a well, so he dug an enormous trench for loading and unloading goods. Abu Jamil had opened several more tunnels, and his sons, grandsons, nephews, and cousins worked for him. He claimed to no longer care about the profit. "For me it's a way to challenge our circumstances," he said, as a dump truck backed into the trench to pick up a load of Egyptian sandstone. Asked what else he's brought in over the years, he smiled wearily. "Oh, everything." By which he meant cows, cleaning supplies, soda, medicine, a cobra for the zoo.

At a tunnel nearby we saw a shipment of potato chips arrive; at another, mango juice; at another, coils of rebar; at another, the familiar blue canisters of cooking gas. We reached one tunnel as 300 dripping Styrofoam boxes filled with fish packed in ice were being unloaded. Taxis and cars sent by restaurants and wives had pulled up to take delivery. The partners who ran this tunnel were young, in their 30s. They specialized in lambs and calves, they said, but fish was cheaper, and since Gazan fishermen were kept within a tight nautical limit by the Israeli Navy, seafood was always in demand.

Just then a man entered the tent and whispered to one of the partners. He didn't want sardines—he wanted to be smuggled into Egypt. This is common. Some Gazans go by tunnel to the Egyptian side of Rafah for medical treatment. Some use the tunnels to escape, others to have a good time for a night. I heard that there were even VIP tunnels for wealthy travelers, with air-conditioning and cell phone reception.

As the two men haggled, there was yelling outside the tent. I rushed out to find a tunnel worker about to punch Paolo. The man was screaming that he didn't want his picture taken. Every time a journalist comes here, he shouted, a tunnel is bombed. How, he yelled, could he tell that we weren't spies? I'd noticed that when Ayman tried to persuade tunnel operators to speak with me, the word "Mossad" was often uttered. They presumed that if Paolo and I weren't with the CIA, we must be with the Israeli spy agency. The tunnel worker's paranoia is understandable, given that Israel's surveillance of Gaza is constant, as the ceaseless buzz of drones overhead attested. And in recent memory, Israeli commandos have entered the tunnel zone. A few, as the Israeli press has documented, died in bomb explosions—booby traps set by Palestinians.

Although unemployment is endemic—the rate in Gaza is more than 30 percent—the Gaza Strip is full of would-be entrepreneurs. On the shore north of Gaza City, next to bombed-out cafés, fish farms are being built. On the roofs of buildings pockmarked by machine-gun fire, hydroponic vegetable gardens are being planted, and in Rafah, just west of the tunnels, a sewage-processing plant is now running, its pond lined with concrete pylons taken from the border wall.

Yet for the majority of Gazans, the tunnels remain the lifeline. One day in Rafah I met a man who was digging a well with the help of his two sons, using a horse in place of a winch. I asked if he worried about his sons' safety. He said yes, of course. But he had no other job prospects and couldn't afford to keep his sons in school. Fixing me with a skeptical look that suggested all the distance in the world between us, he said curtly, "Insa." One of Arabic's beautifully expressive idioms, the word means essentially, "That's life."

Gaza City apartments rise beyond the broken gates of a waterfront restaurant. The beach once bustled with fishing boats and cafés, but the Israeli naval blockade, sewage, and lack of resources for rebuilding have taken their toll.
Gaza City apartments rise beyond the broken gates of a waterfront restaurant. The beach once bustled with fishing boats and cafés, but the Israeli naval blockade, sewage, and lack of resources for rebuilding have taken their toll.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin, National Geographic

Alongside the tunnel economy is another, born of destruction. The UN estimates that Operation Cast Lead created more than half a million tons of rubble, which has become a currency in its own right. It's everywhere, and the rubble collectors are usually teams of children wielding mallets and hammers, breaking down the stuff, sifting it, loading it onto donkey carts, and bringing it to one of the many concrete-block factories that have sprung up. This is how Gazans, unable to legally import construction materials, are rebuilding. A government economist told me that rubble alone accounted for a 6 percent drop in unemployment in 2010.

Gazans are still hopeful that the Arab Spring might bring a change in their circumstances, though so far it has not. There is talk of opening the border with Egypt, but when that might happen, or indeed whether it will at all, is unclear.

The economy of destruction takes on permutations that might have pleased Thutmose III: One night Paolo and I attended a wedding celebration in a bomb crater. It also takes ugly turns: According to an interview in an International Crisis Group report, "a handful of rockets are launched by young militants hired by local merchants whose profits would decline if Israel's closure were further relaxed." This is hideous enough to be believable, but the militants I met were entrepreneurially minded in a more peaceful way. One afternoon I interviewed an Islamic Jihad fighter at a patrol ground near Bayt Hanun. Wearing head-to-toe camouflage and a headband advertising his willingness to die for Allah, an AK-47 in his hands, and a 9-mm pistol strapped to his chest, he admitted that most days he studies business administration at the university. "Jihad is not a job," he said.

Back in Jabalia, I talked with Samir about his future. "There is no chance I can go back to the tunnels," he said. I asked what he'd do instead, and he waved his hand to indicate the room we were sitting in. As it turned out, his brother Yussef had signed a contract to rent this space. When Yussef wasn't working in the tunnels, Samir explained, he was learning to become a beekeeper. He'd planned to open a honey shop here. Samir wanted to take it over in Yussef's stead. And when I last heard from Samir, in September, the shop was up and running. When Yussef died, his wife was three months pregnant with their first child. She miscarried shortly afterward. She is now married to Yussef's youngest brother, Khaled, who manages the honey shop with Samir. They keep a picture of Yussef on the wall.

79 comments
Uri Tidhar
Uri Tidhar

I didn't read all, it's English and it's hard for me, but one thing must be clarified: The smuggling tunnels were between Gaza and Egypt.  No connection to Israel.

The attack tunnels are from Gaza TO Israel. 

These are not the same tunnels.,

Jason Vega
Jason Vega

wow more Zionist propaganda.  I have lost all respect for national geographic


hamas was started by Israel and your phony tunnel photos are a laugh.


you went down allright on your golden knee pads.  that's SOME tunnel to have enough room for the birds eye shot.  why, its a wonder how YOU got into a tunnel.


yeah we simpleton goy never heard of ground penetrating radar.  like the ones used at Treblinka which found ZERO mass graves.  the Israelis have also heard of ground penetrating radar believe it or not. 


no mention of the 50 foot high walls on three sides of the gaza strip or the naval blockade and how average gazans live off 1$ a day, or the 1.8 millions native Palestinians (the real semites) who have been forced to live there and bombed mercilessly?


this pure and complete Zionist propaganda.  I wont be doing business with your rag anymore.  we know who pulls the strings there.


we SEE you. you don't OWN us.

Larry Weiss
Larry Weiss

                                           Wow- 

incredible sympathy for Hamas. Perhaps you ought to try to glorify Al Qeda and ISIS and Boko Haram terrorists.

But your readers should keep in mind that the abduction of Gilad Shalit was a gross violation of Human Rights, and included at least two WAR CRIMES according to International Law and the Third Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.:

    not permitting Red Cross or other observers to visit
    holding him as a hostage for ransom

In the current conflict, Hamas has tried to snatch the body of a dead Israeli soldier, also a WAR CRIME, presumably also to use for ransom. Israeli civilians are also considered fair game according to HAMAS, in its unrelentingly effort to commit CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, and the tunnels are an attempt to murder and kidnap women and children as well.

 

Your report fails to describe that as documented by the Institute for Palestine Studies, as of 2012, "[a]t least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials!" That's not consistent, apparently, with the narrative you want to tell.

 

Hamas' brazen rocket attacks on Israel, widely condemned for targeting civilians, are defined as WAR CRIMES by human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
They usually target civilians and the weapons' inaccuracy would disproportionately endanger civilians even if military targets were chosen. Human Rights Watch has also condemned the attackers for firing from near residential structures, thus putting Gazan civilians at unnecessary risk. Gazan organizations that fire these rockets openly declare that they intend to strike, among other targets, Israeli civilians. Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral and illegal, and the intentional killing of civilians is a grave breach under the Fourth Geneva Convention, a war crime, and cannot be justified, whatever the circumstances. Furthermore, Qassam rockets are themselves illegal, even when aimed at military objects, because the rockets are so imprecise and endanger civilians....

 

Glorifying Hamas terrorists and their accomplices is no virtue. Articles such as these promote the continuation of Gazan WAR CRIMES, and the writers, editors and publisher are thereby complicit in CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.

David Tay
David Tay

I have 2 reactions to reading this article. Firstly, just deep sadness for the suffering of the Palestinians. The second, is being perplexed at why the Palestinians themselves voted Hamas into power?

loxty neveg
loxty neveg

Please edit this article: Morsi hasn't been President of Egypt for quite a while now.

Zajel Sabje
Zajel Sabje

All I see here is Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews. Can't they be referred to as humans? We are all just humans after all, right? We create the division and refuse our equality to sate our egos then moan and groan about how unfair everything is. How dare humans fight for land that does not belong to them, we are merely but inhabitants not the owners of the Earth, so why so much innocent bloodshed for something that is actually temporary residence? Who's right and who's wrong, is only definable by our own ideologies and beliefs, it's seems we are not humans who want to uphold humanity but those who separate humanity from humanity by creating and not appreciating diversity. Shame on us for allowing the massacre of innocents be it whatever religion, ethnicity or race in this age while referring to ourselves as free sapient beings. Nat Geo are you guys really inspiring people to care about the Earth with articles like this?

Isaia  Glaser
Isaia Glaser

Very nice article and pictures, but your story is incomplete.


You wrote that the Gaza tunnels started as economic channel to import everyday goods. The fact is that Israel allows Gaza residents import food, medicine, and most items necessary ti maintain normal life, In fact, all of Gaza's water, Electricity, and communication (phone and Internet connection) come from Israel (despite a debt of well over 1 billion US$), and despite the ongoing war with Hamas it still supplies Gaza with all these. In fact, Israel treats patients from Gaza in its hospitals and offered to continue doing this through the war - the Hamas blocked that offer and does not let Gaza residents get to the border for such treatment.


What Israel would not let importing to Gaza are weapons, ammunition and war materials, as well as some materials which are known to be used to construct weapons and explosives by the Hamas. The first tunnels to Egypt were dug in order to circumvent this weapon blockage; the Hamas has stockpiled a few thousand rockets, and thousand of mortar shells over the years, which are used to bomb Israeli civilian routinely, and intensively beginning two weeks before the war.


Only after several war-supplies tunnels were dug, some Gaza entrepreneurs found that most goods are much cheaper in Egypt (compared to Israel) and dug "economic tunnels. The Hamas allowed this after taking a cut in their profits. 

Donny Vale Fernandez
Donny Vale Fernandez

dehumanizing human beings. thats it. nothing more. nothing less. just pure inhuman situation

Jean Klett
Jean Klett

For propaganda, Hamas chooses hospitals and schools from which to shoot rockets.  When Israel shoots rockets back in defense, those rockets land on those hospitals and schools.  Voila!  Hamas now has media coverage which makes Israelis look like the bad guys.


Hamas' charter states that they want the destruction of all Jews.  Israel wants peace, so they defend themselves.  


For a good understanding of Israel's history, listen to Michael Medved's 2 CDs titled "Why They Fight: The Story of the Arab/Israeli Conflict".  Myths are destroyed by facts.  www.medvedhistorystore.com

Nishikant  Doble
Nishikant Doble

As I read the entire story and the comments of people too, I came to a conclusion that there is a communication gap between Hamas and Israel.

The result of war is always harmful to the mankind.

We as responsible people should ask both the governments to communicate and search the solution.

Solution for harmony and peace !!!

My blessings to the people who have lost their loved one in the attacks.

John C.
John C.

From the Hamas Charter:


"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."


ISIS murders Christians in Iraq, demolishes their churches, runs them into exile. Same in Egypt with the Coptic Christians. And Sudan. And Iran. And Iraq. And Saudi Arabia. And everywhere Islam takes root as the majority population.


As the terrorists say: "First we get rid of the Saturday people. Then we get rid of the Sunday people." There is no room for anyone else in their demonic world view.


Intolerance. Violence. Murder. Anguish. Poverty. Death.


Islam is pure cancer, nothing more in this world.

Myrna Vazquez
Myrna Vazquez

Thank you for the story.   It shed a light on how the people of Gaza are dealing with what Hamas has given them.  Now write a story about living under the Iron Dome.  


John C.
John C.

Israel already withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. The Palestinians responded by electing the terrorist group Hamas to lead them and turning their free state into a military base to launch terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, a war crime.


The Gaza Palestinians could have established a civilized, peaceful state next to Israel. Instead they chose the path of fanatical, nihilistic, barbarous Islamic terror. And are reaping the whirlwind for it. 

Majid A.
Majid A.

There may be goals relative to the aggression on Gaza; such as cessation of rocket fire and weaken the military capabilities of the Palestinian factions in Gaza, but the reality of what Israel wants from the aggression on the Gaza Strip that being dedicated internal Palestinian division, and remain Gaza cut off and separate from the rest of the Palestinian territories, and end any realistic possibility for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, it is possible in the context of any future settlement to be re-Gaza Strip to the Egyptian administration and what could be the remainder of the West Bank, of course, what you want to swallow after swallow of land can be re-to the Jordanian administration, and so are liquidating the Palestinian cause politically and legally, and get rid of this «nightmare» that haunts Israeli leaders, and deprive them of political and economic expansion in the region and the world.

J W.
J W.

If Hamas would renounce it's violent strategies, embrace Israel and Egypt, embrace Fatah and other Palestinian groups reliably and permanently, and embrace civil rights for its own people, the entire region would embrace peace and the world would be a better place.

n. abd el motelb
n. abd el motelb

I feel for the Palestinians to have their land, water, work and freedom taken away. Any society throughout history that Gaza was invaded by Israel ,so palestinians  fighting for freedom, justice and human rights.

BURHAN KHAN
BURHAN KHAN

VERY BAD NG IS TALKING ABOUT ONLY ONE SIDE ISRAEL HE SHOULD ALSO SAY ABOUT GAZA IF ANYONE THINK ISRAEL IS ONLY KILLING HAMAS THEN THEY SHOULD WATCH VIDEOS OF ISRAEL SNIPPING CIVILIANS EVEN I HAD SEEN MORE THAN 10 VIDEOS OF KILLING INNOCENT CIVILIANS IN GHAZA.MAY BE YOU CAN WATCH ASLO IF YOU ARE NOT BLIND AND YOU ARE NOT FROM ISRAEL

Ismal dovisally
Ismal dovisally

Us government and zionist is the source of terrorism all around the world.

Alision Christ
Alision Christ

What is GAZA and Israeli Terrorism. The truth is here for all common human being. Very Interesting. Just take a few minutes to know the truth. Thank you. 


Before you guys make any opinions about the conflict in Israel and Gaza. pls check these facts and figures:


1. Gaza was invaded by Israel in 1967 & ever since Israel is illegally occupying the whole of the Gaza strip.

2. Gaza is surrounded on three sides by Israel who has blocked all these three sides by Israeli army.& Navy. 

One side is border of Egypt where the Egyptian army along with Israeli & UN observers & monitors blocks the entry of any body from/to Gaza.

Gaza is literally huge prison where not even a bird can enter without Israel’s permission.

3. Gaza has no sea port or airport or even a train station.

4. Gaza residents cannot leave Gaza as they don’t even have passports. Plus there are Israeli checkpoints at every place. Also no one from any country can enter Gaza without Israel’s permission which is impossible to get , forget about ordinary man even the top politicians of powerful countries had been denied entry in Gaza by Israel. Gaza is a place which is totally cutoff from the rest of the world.

5. Each and every daily use commodities comes through these Israeli check points. Even the milk, wheat medicines all items come through these Israeli check points. Israel charge taxes on all the items witch goes through these check points.

6. Gaza is like a big jail. It is entire country under seize. Even inside Gaza Israel have several check posts at important junctions. The Israeli army harasses and humiliates Gaza citizens every day as the Gaza citizens cross these check posts.

7. The UN has urged Israel numerous times to remove this illegal seizure of Gaza but Israel never listen to UN . 

More then 50 resolutions have been passed by UN against Israel but with USA always on its side so Israel just doesn’t care.

8. The food and essentials are always in short supply in Gaza as Israel delays, discourages and harass its imports in Gaza. Shops don’t have enough rations, hospitals don’t have enough and essential medicines. Power is in short supply, petrol and gas is in shortage too. The inflation is highest in the world in Gaza as a result of it. The poverty is rising at the highest rate also. The Gaza children’s are among the worst malnutrition children now.

9. There are no specialized doctors or equipments to treat the serious injury or disease in any hospitals. Every now and then Israeli army bomb Gaza and the innocent civilians get hurt during bombing. These wounded civilians plead and beg in the check points to let them out for treatment but they kind Israeli army never let them. So the wounds which could have been treated become more severe and often the wounded becomes handicapped for the rest of their lives.

10. Once a thriving society and rich people now have become beggars & prisoners in their own country.Can you imagine the trauma the humiliation the harassment the pain in the hearts of these people who have been invaded and made prisoners and slaves in their own country? 

They have been struggling for their independence since almost 50 years now. With each passing day Israel is constructing new settlements for its Israeli citizens in their land. With each passing day their hope of independence, a hope to live a normal life like any other human is fading away. Every night they sleep in pain and every morning they wake up with sorrows.

In the pretext of peace talks Israel actually is delaying their independence to capture more and more of their land everyday by constructing new Israeli homes and settlements. The Palestinians know this and they are watching it helplessly. Just like a goat watch the lion eats its children but can do nothing. They are shedding tears of blood. With Israeli soldiers harassing them , cursing them, abusing them mocking them, hurting them , killing them everyday in their very own land, all Palestinians can do is watch and cry. 

What suggestions do you have now? The western paid media is making & broadcasting news in such a manner that one should feel as if Gaza residence are the one who are occupying Israel and Israel is fighting for the freedom of its. Here is the brain storming  process of paid media. 

Alision Christ
Alision Christ

This is an another propaganda of Zionist. Gaza is blocked by Israel from all sides. The tunnel is used to bring daily necessary things like food , medicine , clothes etc.

Ara K.
Ara K.

Concluding that the innocent blood shed in Gaza doesn't mean anything and absolutely Wowing Israel for defending her attack so subtly against the So-Called terrorists who have stones as their weapons! Bravo Israel...this is an attack whose subtle point is undoubtedly lost on me...!

Brittany Tillman
Brittany Tillman

Israel can accept 3.5 BILLION dollars a years from the US for militia, yet Palestine cannot smuggle in weapons to defend themselves from Israeli attacks?!?! Moreover, Palestine is blockaded economically, so by closing these tunnels, Israel is cutting off Palestinians means of sustenance and its life support!

Dale Rys
Dale Rys

NG great story..loved it..the folks here putting this down dont have a clue whats going on here...thanks again! 

Bilal Malkoç
Bilal Malkoç

civilians, childs, babies and womens are dieing in Gaza and they are killing by isreal. what is this name? I think may be "terrorism"

Esti Birkan
Esti Birkan

 I am very diappointed of NG in the so many completley incorrect information brought in this article stated as historical facts. I ask you to please make a much wider and true research regarding the Gaza-Israeli relations and the other countries before, Ejypt, Turkey and Britain. More importantly, deeply review the nature, status and action of the VARIOUS and different terror organization active in gaza through the years. Who manipulated what and how, meaning both Israeli and arab world very high level figures. and the most important thing  is, WHERE DID THE MONEY CAME FROM, HOW IT WAS MENT TO BE SPENT AND WHERE DID IT END UP. I promise you that no question will be left about those tunnels and alot of lines in this article will be changed or erased.


When you plead to explain the complicated situation in Gaza right now you cannot do without this research. it makes half of your data just false. I am sorry but it is. in any case, you cannot use propaganda material and a few field witnesses to speak history.

Julie Anne McGregor
Julie Anne McGregor

I hope for peace for both Palestine and Israel. I feel for the Palestinians to have their land, water, work and freedom taken away. Any society throughout history that has been oppressed eventually rises up against their oppressor fighting for freedom, justice and human rights. What makes Palestinian children any different or less deserving then Jewish children? Absolutely nothing! I believe you should treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself not like an enemy, maybe then you will have peace.

Max Headron
Max Headron

@Larry Weiss There's no sympathy for Hamas. But I should ask you why did the US do the Marshall Plan?

Nazim Durmuş
Nazim Durmuş

@David Tay  As a result of this article i became aware of some things in Palestinian matter. One of them is, my friend, if you get an opportunity to look at Israel's earliest map, you will see that the are of Israel is increasing continously year by year. I reached a conclusion that Israel wants to destroy whole Palestinians as soon as possible. That is why Palestinians vote for Hamas. Anyway, they are loosing their land.

John C.
John C.

@Nishikant Doble 


From the Hamas Charter: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."


I'd say the communication is loud and clear.

James Stevens
James Stevens

@John C. You're view is warped. It is the israelis that are the terrorist's. They target women and children that the israelites are forcing to live in an open air prison. They forced the Palestinians into the worst kind of living conditions imaginable, and you think the palestinians are the "barbarous" ones? If a person kicked you from your home, locked you in an oppressive prison and starved you of even the most basic services while murdering your family, what would you do? Live in peace with them? I am guessing if this was happening to you and your family that you would not think peace was an option.  

James Stevens
James Stevens

@J W. You may as well be asking why didn't the jews embrace hitler and the nazi's. What kind of a person  would even suggest that they embrace the people that are exterminating them? 


J W.
J W.

@n. abd el motelb While the Israelis are certainly guilty of horrible repercussions and over-reactions with the cost of many innocent lives, they certainly did not start this war, nor earlier ones. If you want to talk about who has had their land "taken away", Gaza was part of the first Jewish state originally. And if not for the Israelis separating Palestinian factions (Fatah vs. Hamas), providing humanitarian aid, clean water, electricity, preserving some human rights, the corrupt Palestinian governments would've destroyed themselves and their country even faster than they have now. Please learn some history and balance to your arguments.

Alex Levin
Alex Levin

@Ismal dovisally Sure. Of course it was the US government who arranged Afghan war, 9/11.Sure. @James Stevens  - Learn some history. Who started the 1967 war? Or 1948 war? Or the current one (3 kidnapped and shot teenagers - remember? It was in the news just about 3 weeks ago...)

Alex Levin
Alex Levin

@Brittany Tillman So, you are saying the Palestine should receive the same amount of money? It will equal things out and provide Palestinians with better weapons, and then Israeli reaction would be appropriate? What kind of war-mongering is that?

John C.
John C.

@Brittany Tillman 


the Israeli's RESPOND to Hamas attacks, directly targeting Israeli civilians as a war crime.

John C.
John C.

@Julie Anne McGregor 


From the Hamas Charter:


"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."


How exactly do you treat a neighbor who's main objective in life every day when he wakes up is to try to murder you? 

Raven B. Raven
Raven B. Raven

@Nazim Durmuş Yeah.  Every time the Arabs declare war or the Palestinians send suicide bombers into Israel, Israel moves to protect itself. Strengthening  it's borders is one method to do this.  Sometimes they get moved, sometimes a wall is built.  So there is land attrition.  When the Palestinians decide to live in peace, this will be unnecessary.  Perhaps the wall will come down, certain roads will be usable by Palestinians, border crossing will be made easier.  Stop the bombers, stop the rockets, stop the 'Kill the Jews! Destroy Israel!' rhetoric and life could be different.

Jeff VanGaalen
Jeff VanGaalen

If Gaza is an Israeli imposed prison then it's only a 3-walled prison. Read the article, or look at a map and you'll notice a border with Egypt that Israel is not responsible for.

You also seem to conveniently forget that 99% of goods imaginable are permitted through Israeli channels. They just want to inspect them as they come in to prevent war materials.

John C.
John C.

@James Stevens @John C. 


Another anti-Semitic terrorist apologist. When the Israelis left Gaza 10 years ago they left 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. Israel opened the border and encouraged commerce with the Palestinians.


The Palestinians promptly demolished the greenhouses and started building tunnels to launch terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.


Tunnels have been located under Israeli kindergartens, packed with explosives. Last week the IDF killed terrorists who had tranquilizers and handcuffs - to be used to kidnap Israeli civilians for hostage. Palestinians have fired rockets at Israel's nuclear reactor and directly target civilian areas - war crimes according to the U.N. and any civilized measure.


Are civilians killed in Gaza. Yes, because Hamas hides their weapons in homes, mosques and schools inviting civilian deaths so that idiots like you can blame Israel. BTW, when does Hamas drop leaflets on Israeli cities warning of impending rocket attacks?. People like you are no better than the apologists for the Nazis and Communists mass murderers.

Jeff VanGaalen
Jeff VanGaalen

If Israel wanted to exterminate the people living in the Gaza strip it could be done at any time and would have been done long ago. Your comparison to how the Nazi's treated the Jewish people in WW2 is beyond weak.

James Stevens
James Stevens

@J W. @n. abd el motelb Did not start this war? Are you out of your mind? They set this whole thing up so they could take out Hamas. If you think israelites are peace loving and just want to have peace I say BS. Their past says they are all about killing women and children to steal land. They have been doing it since the early bible years. They have never owned that land unless they murdered the people living on it. 

James Stevens
James Stevens

@John C. @Brittany Tillman So it would seem you don't think directly targeting Palestinians is a war crime.  If it is bad for Hamas, it is bad for israel. The double standard in israel is pathetic. 


Yasmin S.
Yasmin S.

@John C. John, the greenhouse story is a lie.  There were 1000 acres of greenhouses.  Israeli settlers dismantled at least half of them before leaving.  

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/middleeast/15mideast.html?pagewanted=all

After the withdrawal, there was looting by Palestinians which the police tried to stop.  

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9331863/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/looters-strip-gaza-greenhouses/#.U9P0Vo2wLIQ

Within 3 months, Palestinians had rebuilt 600 acres and were planning on building 200 more.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/28/international/middleeast/28gaza.html

They had excellent harvests the first two years but Israel blocked them from exporting the produce, and the produce rotted at the border.  After that they decided to use them in a limited capacity for local produce.  I imagine many of them have been destroyed by the bombings now

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/world/middleeast/18gaza.html


Yasmin S.
Yasmin S.

@John C.  John, the greenhouse story is a lie.  There were 1000 acres of greenhouses.  Israeli settlers dismantled at least half of them before leaving.  


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/international/middleeast/15mideast.html?pagewanted=all

After the withdrawal, there was looting by Palestinians which the police tried to stop.  

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9331863/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/looters-strip-gaza-greenhouses/#.U9P0Vo2wLIQ

Within 3 months, Palestinians had rebuilt 600 acres and were planning on building 200 more.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/28/international/middleeast/28gaza.html

They had excellent harvests the first two years but Israel blocked them from exporting the produce, and the produce rotted at the border.  After that they decided to use them in a limited capacity for local produce.  I imagine many of them have been destroyed by the bombings now

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/world/middleeast/18gaza.html


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