Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza: the Only Access of Gaza Strip Civilians to Their Daily...

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Publish Date : 11/24/2015 9:59
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Historically, the two Egyptian and Palestinian sides of the town of Rafah, until the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was a single town.

According to the contents of the peace treaty, in 1979 Israel and Egypt and the agreement for Israeli forces to leave the Sinai Peninsula as part of the peace deal with Egypt, a new boundary was agreed upon which resulted in the splitting up of families in the town. In 1982 Israel left Sinai and at the same time the Egyptian side of Rafah was politically and geographically split from the Palestinian part. Barbed wire was laid and a border crossing was set up for travel between the two parts of the town, while from social and family links and tribal nature, the people are deemed as one community. This close link led to the secret exchange between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and tunnels were a means for this exchange.
Following the Oslo agreement in 1995, the control and inspection of the Palestinian side of the security corridor was given to the Palestinians. From 2001 Israel extensively began destroying Palestinian homes in Rafah and constructed a wall in the region, to create a buffer zone, also the Egyptian government has on several occasions destroyed the people's homes for the construction of barriers and trenches. In spite of the reiteration of the 1079 peace accord on the Philadelphia corridor being demilitarized, up until 2004 on the pretext of prevention of smuggling of weapons and munitions, the IDF patrolled the area and restricted the people of Gaza's access to their daily needs.
In 2004 the Knesset issued a resolution calling for the unilateral withdrawal of the army and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, and handed over the administration of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. But to fill and replace the vacuum created by the absence of its military in the region, on 1 September 2005 Israel and Egypt signed an agreement which contrary to the 1079 Peace Accord (parties stressed on that hereon in the Sinai Peninsula and the Philadelphia buffer zone will be deemed a demilitarized zone) gave both parties the opportunity for military activities in the region. According to this agreement Egyptian border police had the right to set up checkpoints and have light military vehicles and ammunitions with a force of 750 border guards, along the Philadelphia line.
Following the agreement that Israel signed with the PA which allowed limited travel for Palestinians and also export of agricultural produce from Gaza and the West Bank. But from June 2007 following Hamas winning the elections in Gaza, Israel completely blockaded Gaza from air, sea and land, which not only is deemed the collective punishment of 1.8 million people who are mainly civilians, but any sort of imports-exports and travel of individuals required the permission of the Israeli authorities. This blockade has been imposed on the pretext of prevention of weapons entering Gaza, but in practice it mostly affects food, fuel and energy imports. Particularly that most of the Gaza residents need humanitarian aid for survival and currently with the blockade they have no access to these.
Following the blockade, the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt became more important. These tunnels are the only means for the people to provide their daily food, medical and construction raw materials imports from Egypt. The political changes in Egypt on 25 January 2011, and the election of Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood to presidency, had a positive effect on the relations between Egypt and Hamas. Egyptian officials allowed a large quantity of various goods to pour into Gaza from Egypt. Following the events of 30 June 2013 and the removal of Morsi, and Abdolfatah Al Sisi - the former Defence Minister - becoming president, the enmity between the Egyptian military and the Brotherhood affected Egypt's policy towards Gaza. Egyptian officials closed the Rafah crossing completely, to such an extent that from the beginning of 2015 the crossing was only open for 17 days. Following the 2014 Gaza war, the Egyptian military began the destruction of the tunnels.
To this aim, Egyptian military vehicles brought huge water pipes to the region in order to flood the tunnels with seawater. Aside from the important effects that the destruction of the tunnels will have on the residents of Gaza's access to food and other basic living things, these actions endanger the future of the soil and lands in the border regions, and even the residents of Rafah in the Gaza Strip are concerned about the falling down of their homes close to the border areas, because these waters have taken a vast area of the border regions between Egypt and Gaza. It seems Egyptian officials will do their utmost to flood these tunnels. Also in the recent weeks a large number of these tunnels have caved in, but considering that with the total blockade of the Gaza Strip, it is the ordinary people who will suffer the most from these destructions, and their only access to food, medicine and basic needs will be cut off.

Roja Lotfinejad
M.S. in Human Rights

منابع :

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt%E2%80%93Israel_Peace_Treaty
2- http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/isregypt.asp
3- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphi_Route
4- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo_II_Accord
5- http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.background-resource.php?resourceID=921
6- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_demolition_in_the_Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict
7- http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/opt_prot_alhaq_focus_property_destruction_jan_2004.pdf
8- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_disengagement_from_Gaza
9- https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS22000.pdf
10- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_the_Gaza_Strip
11- https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafah_border_crossing#Rafah_Border_Crossing
12- http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/a-new-reality-on-the-egypt-gaza-border-part-i-contents-of-the-new-israel-eg
13- http://fmep.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/rafahfinaldraft_ap07.pdf
14- http://www.ciaonet.org/attachments/14446/uploads
15- http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/israel-blockade-gaza-petition-urges-150825190109843.html
16- .http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2015/06/gaza-blockade-break-international-law-150629203141416.html
17- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict
18- http://www.cfr.org/israel/hamas/p8968
19- .http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/09/egypt-floods-gaza-tunnels-150918193805896.html
20- .http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/09/egypt-army-flood-rafah-tunnels-palestinian-houses.html
21- http://www.imemc.org/article/73669
22- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/egyptian-military-floods-vital-gaza-supply-tunnels-on-palestinian-border-10509638.html
23- https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/0001/2015/en/

“ Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza: the Only Access of Gaza Strip Civilians to Their Daily Essentials ”