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The ratlines of Hamas

July 15, 2013

Hamas and tunnel owners are making millions of dollars a year from Gaza Strip smuggling.  A nice little summary of the long-known situation comes to us from a new, scholarly article entitled “Terrorist Use of Smuggling Tunnels” in the latest edition of the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology:

…The amount of money made by Hamas off taxing contraband smuggled through Gaza Strip tunnels, as well as the political advantage of Hamas controlling both absolute and conditional contraband tunnel smuggling, has been addressed in the business management popular press. For example, one source reported that “the tunnels generate $188 million in tax revenues on things like cigarettes, gas and building materials” (Topol, 2013, para. 13).

Palestinians estimate that 25% of the Hamas government’s budget comes from taxes imposed on the owners of the underground tunnels. For example, Hamas has imposed a 25% tax and a $2,000 fee on every car that is smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Hamas also charges $15 for each ton of cement, eight cents for a pack of cigarettes, and 50 cents for each liter of fuel smuggled through the tunnels (Toameh, 2012).

The political advantage the smuggling tunnels provided to Hamas included that while the tunnels are essential for transporting absolute contraband and materials into Gaza, they are also critical for maintaining the goodwill of Gazans by providing them with cut-price commodities even with surcharges added by Hamas officials (Alster, 2013). The financial rewards of engaging in criminal smuggling of contraband between Egypt and the Gaza Strip are an important part of transnational tunnel analysis because the Gaza Strip is a site of an estimated 600 millionaires (Toameh, 2012)…

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