Posted by: Lister | October 23, 2008

Herding Cattle Through Tunnels

From Haaretz:

When the calves were hauled out of the tunnel from Egypt Tuesday they could hardly stand up.

After a terrifying, one-kilometer underground trip into the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, what the young cattle wanted most was a long drink of cool water.

Underground livestock smuggling has increased dramatically ahead of Id Al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, due December 10, when Muslims the world over slaughter animals and feed the poor to seek God’s forgiveness.

[…] The number of tunnels has mushroomed in the past year to around 800, according to Abu Luqaib. They employ between 20,000 to 25,000 workers in a gray economy struggling for survival. A standard 500-meter tunnel costs from 60,000 euro to 90,000 euro to build, he says. A 1,000-meter tunnel built with extra safety features can cost up to 150,000 euro.

The tunnels can be dangerous. Palestinian officials say at least 45 Gazans have died in cave-ins this year, some of which were blamed by Hamas on the security forces in Egypt, who are under pressure from Israel and the United States to clamp down. But such risks are clearly outweighed by potential profits.

The calves that came through Tuesday cost 350 euro each plus 250 euro for the transport, a total of 600 euro per head.

[…] The tunnels also ferry people who cannot otherwise leave or enter Gaza unless they have Israeli or Egyptian permission. One Gaza woman, Umm Khaled, had been stuck in Egypt for several weeks while her husband fretted over telling her the unwelcome news that her only way home was via a dark tunnel.

So friends slipped a sleeping draught into her glass of juice, wrapped her in a blanket and laid her in an underground trolley to be whisked through to the beleaguered Gaza Strip.

“She got the fastest, most tranquil, and safest trip home in the end,” said tunnel operator Ahmed, who did not give his last name.

I wonder if she pities the fool….?

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