Al Mezan Calls for Intervention to End Tunnels’ Catastrophe Eight Persons Died in Rafah Tunnels in Last Two Days Bringing Death Toll to 100 since 2006


Date published: 28th July 2009

Source: Al Mezan Center for Human

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According to information obtained by Al Mezan Centre’s field researchers, eight Palestinians died in the last two days in two different incidents in tunnels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. In one incident, fuel leaked in a tunnel and in the second the tunnel collapsed while workers were inside it. This raises the number of victims of the tunnel industry to 100 deaths; 39 of whom died in 2009 alone. Another 121 people have been wounded.

At approximately 5:00am on Thursday 28 July 2009, the dead body of Ayman Jamal Abu Samak, 23, from Tel As-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, was admitted at An-Najar Hospital in Rafah. Medical sources reported that the deceased died due to suffocation after a tunnel collapsed while he was inside it near Yebna neighborhood at the border line south of Rafah refugee camp.

In the morning hours on Monday 27 July 2009, civil defense teams found the bodies of Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Moghyyar, 36, Yousif Hamdan Mo’amar, 24, Tareq Ibrahem Keshta, 19, and Tareq Sameer Keshta, 19. The civil defense also rescued six others who sustained light to serious wounds in the fuel leakage incident. At approximately 2:30pm on the same day, the civil defense found the bodies of Tamer Ramdan As-Sayid Faraj, 24 and Issa Mohammed Al-Kissi, 24, in the same tunnel. At approximately 1:00pm on Sunday 26 July 2009, the civil defense found the dead body of Sami Saeed Keshta, 23, who had suffocated to death due to fuel leakage inside a tunnel near the Salah ad-Din Gate, west of Al-Brazil neighborhood at the border line between Rafah and Egypt. In addition, two other persons were rescued from the same tunnel. According to Al Mezan’s investigations, the leakage occurred at approximately 3am of the same day in a tunnel near the one in which these people died. Two persons died due to the fuel leakage in this tunnel.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights expresses its deep sorrow for the high number of victims in these incidents. Most of the people who work in tunnels come from very poor backgrounds and their circumstances have forced them to undertake this kind of work to provide for their families under the difficult socio-economic conditions that are caused by the Israeli siege on Gaza. Nevertheless, Al Mezan re-asserts that the smuggling tunnels are illegal.

It should be noted that the tight siege imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Gaza Strip, which prevents the free movement of the commodities and humanitarian supplies, has driven the tunnel industry in Gaza, which has prospered in response to the sharp lack of essential goods in Gaza. The siege represents a form of unlawful collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza and has seriously harmed their human rights while the international community has remained silence.

As tunnels represent an inevitable alternative for society to attempt to deal with the impact of the Israeli siege, Al Mezan has expected that the Government in Gaza would monitor and regulate this industry; including by taking measures to protect the life, safety and wellbeing of those who work in it. Until this industry is abolished, the Government must ensure that all the necessary safety measures and equipment needed for quick rescue operations are in place. The Government is also responsible for monitoring the quality and prices of the goods that enter the Gaza Strip. Al Mezan finds it incomprehensible that the authorities have not made any significant efforts to regulate this industry despite the very high death rates it causes and the very high prices of the goods that enter Gaza even when goods are available in the market. The authorities in Gaza are also responsible for monitoring and preventing the widespread cases of fraud in this industry

Therefore, Al Mezan Centre calls on the Gaza Government to take immediate steps to act upon the obligations it owes to Palestinian citizens in Gaza. The tunnels’ catastrophe must end. If shutting it off entirely does not seem objectively attainable now, the authorities, at minimum, are responsible for taking all the necessary measures to protect its workers and the entire population from the consequences of the lack of its regulation.

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