A Film by Laila El-Haddad and Saeed Taji Farouky
When Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, they built a wall alongside the Gaza border with Egypt, splitting the city of Rafah into two. Families found themselves divided by a high-security international border, though their houses often lay less than 100m apart. Frequent border closures by the Israeli's further isolated the Gaza Strip and Palestinian trade soon went underground.
|The tunnels have caused much friction among residents, especially after Israeli operations destroy both tunnels and homes
Since then, dozens of secret tunnels burrowed below the Israeli border fence, connecting family houses on both sides of the border.
Everything moves through Rafah's tunnels: from cigarettes and medicine to cash and people. But the residents have also suffered enormously. Israeli operations to destroy the tunnels have demolished thousands of homes over the past seven years.
|Many young tunnel diggers say their work earns them more money than any job they could be doing overground
Israel's main concern with the tunnels is the smuggling of weapons to armed Palestinian groups. But for the smugglers themselves, there is far more to the tunnel trade than politics and arms smuggling.
It is a vast enterprise, and pays five times an average annual Gaza salary in one month. It is a family business, passed on from father to son and always – for reasons of security as well as economics – kept in the family.
People & Power investigates one of the most lucrative businesses in Palestine.
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This episode of People & Power aired from Sunday 02 September 2007 at the following times GMT:
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