Note: This programme originally aired on Al Jazeera English on April 20, 2014
An estimated 7,000 Gazans scratch an insecure living by working in the tunnels, stretching from southern Gaza into Egypt. The network of tunnels, estimates numbering over 500, is an essential prop to Gazan business.
Through them flow building materials, foods, medicines, drugs, and people, accounting for an estimated $700 million per year in an economy which grew by 20 percent in 2011.
Owning a tunnel is a lucrative business – there are believed to be hundreds of “tunnel millionaires” – but building them and working in them is highly dangerous.
Mahmoud Ramlawi swore never to return to tunnelling after his cousin and best friend Khalid was killed in 2009. But the need to earn money drove him back, and now he is largely responsible for the support of his extended family.
He longs for other work but for the moment has no choice. His working days are overshadowed by the knowledge that a cave-in or bombing could happen at any time; deaths happen every week.
Filmed by a young Gazan filmmaker, “The Gaza tunnels” provides an extraordinary glimpse into the lives of the men who build and work in the underground lifeline of the Gaza economy, with astonishing footage of the movement of goods and people through the tunnels themselves.
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