Life savings sucked into black hole of tunnels

– People the world over believe they can get something for nothing.   They believe in get-rich-quick schemes.   And, people the world over will take advantage of others as part of their own get-rich-quick schemes.   Human nature – ain’t it a wonderful thing?   Even in the desperate circumstances of the Gaza Strip, people use and misuse each other with impunity

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tunnelsJawad Tawfiq, a 52-year-old Gazan actor and director, was dubious at first, but his nephew insisted. If they could scrape together enough money, the nephew said, large profits could be made from investing in the tunnels beneath the Egyptian border.

“They were liars,” Tawfiq said bitterly. “They took my money to put in their own pockets. And we are being offered a fraction of what we gave them.”

At first the tunnels emerged as smuggling routes; then they became the vital lifeline for a Gaza under economic siege by Israel. But many people who invested in the tunnels now see them quite differently – as a source of ruination.

The tunnel schemes were advertised as opportunities for doubling and trebling money by unscrupulous figures linked to powerful businessmen in Gaza and, allegedly, to senior officials in Hamas, but have instead led to huge losses for ordinary residents of the Strip.

According to Hamas’s Economics Minister, Ziad al-Zaza, whose office is investigating the issue, US$100 million ($159 million) has been taken fraudulently from would-be entrepreneurs. Others suggest the figure could be closer to US$500 million.

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