Maan had a little story June 8 noting the departure of what were apparently the last of the US army engineers who’ve been trying to install a system along Egypt’s border with Gaza to block the hundreds of tunnels used to get supplies in and out of Gaza.
The story, which is attributed to un-named “Egyptian officials” gave some intriguing systems about how the system was supposed to work. First off, once the work started in early 2009, the Americans tried to bury a steel wall 30 meters (93 feet) underground along the 13.5-kilometer length of the border. However, the Maan report said,
- more than 450 estimated tunnels already [had] cut through the wall. Officials said tunnel owners paid some 10,000 US dollars to have welders spend days in the tunnels and cut through the wall.
So then the Americans turned to a very clunky Plan B:
- Two main monitoring compartments and eighteen subsidiary compartments were installed along the borders every 600 meters, officials explained. Each subsidiary compartment has a ten-meter-long cable running vertically underground with a censor at the end. Censor’s will reportedly detect movement underground, signaling digging or transportation of goods in known tunnel areas.
All subsidiary compartments send reports to the main compartments which print a chart detailing the direction of the movements. Based on the chart, a small digger will drill a vertical hole into the tunnel and insert a camera for observation. Another digger will drill a hole to show the tunnel end at the Egyptian side, so police can either fill up the opening, or destroy it with explosives.
An admitted snag in the multi-million dollar system, Egyptian officials admit, is the un-accounted for ability of tunnel diggers to change course underground if the original tunnel-mouth is filled-in or destroyed.
The only failsafe mechanism, officials noted, was when US engineers informed Israeli officials of the whereabouts of the Gaza-opening of the tunnel, which was obliterated by Israeli air strikes.
I hate that term “failsafe mechanism”. These are people’s lives we are talking about here: Both the people in Gaza who are desperate to have the goods that enable them to live a normal life (and also, if possible, to sustain normal livelihoods), and the people inside the tunnels and working around their ends, who have faced lethal dangers as they worked.
Well, I hope the departure of the American military engineers signals one step toward the rapid ending of the blockade. It is shameful that our country has done so much to keep this viciously anti-humane policy of collective punishment in place for so long.
(Some people say it has only been in place since 2007. Not true. It has been in place ever since Hamas won the free and fair parliamentary elections of January 2006, as part of the US-Israeli campaign to, in effect, punish the 1.5 million people of Gaza for that result. In June 2008, Hamas and the government of Israel succeeded in indirectly negotiating a ceasefire across the Gaza-Israel border, which was nearly wholly observed by both sides until November 4, 2008. On that date, Israel launched a massive infraction of the ceasefire, leading to the unraveling of the agreement. Another reason it failed was that its terms had not been written down, and while Hamas understood that they included Israel’s speedy lifting of the siege, Israel subsequently denied that and maintained the siege almost as tight as before. Israel’s insistence on keeping the siege in place persuaded Hamas that the ceasefire on its own was not worth renewing. It thus led directly to considerable hardship for Palestinians and led indirectly to the harms the people of southern Israel suffered when the ceasefire fell apart.)