For Some, Tunnels Remain the Only Way into Gaza

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A Palestinian boy runs next a smuggling tunnel, damaged after it was targeted in an overnight Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: REUTERS - Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

By: Taghrid Atallah

Published Monday, November 28, 2011

Months after the opening of the Rafah crossing, some Palestinians still have to use tunnels to enter Gaza.

Gaza – Ibrahim Abu Deeb emerged from the tunnel to the light of his lost homeland and into the arms of his parents, who thought they would never see their son again.

Abu Deeb, an Irish-Palestinian, had tried every trick in the book and exhausted every legal loophole in order to enter Gaza and see his family after decades of being away.

In fact, as soon as Abu Deeb heard of Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah border crossing on the first of June 2011, his desire to enter Gaza was rekindled, but he expected his hopes to be crushed, especially after a previous failed attempt.

Seven years ago, he had spent six hours in front of the Beit Hanoun crossing, waiting to enter Gaza, but the occupation forces stopped him from crossing.

He then reluctantly decided to spend his vacation with some relatives in the West Bank. There he attempted to try his luck again, but to no avail.

Abu Deeb returned to Ireland where he lives, without seeing his parents. But as soon as he heard the good news from Egypt, he contacted the Egyptian authorities to see whether he could enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

But the embassy did not have any information. He warily requested the embassy inquire about the issue.

He was interrogated about the reason behind his request, to which he responded that he wanted to visit his elderly father whom he hadn’t seen since the Israeli siege on Gaza.

Forty days after writing a letter requesting information from the Egyptian embassy, he finally received a reply, permitting him to pass through the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

When Abu Deeb arrived at the Rafah crossing gate, accompanied by his two brothers who hold Palestinian identity cards, he handed all his papers to the Egyptian officer.

But without even looking at any of his documents, the officer asked him for his identity card.

Abu Deeb replied that he only had his Irish passport and a letter from the Egyptian ambassador in Ireland allowing him to enter Gaza. The officer disregarded the letter, and simply stopped him from going any further.

One Egyptian officer, who felt sorry for Abu Deeb, suggested to his brothers that they could get him into Gaza through the tunnels.

Ibrahim froze for a moment and thought it over. Should he just give up and go back to Ireland? Or should he go underground to enter Gaza as suggested by the officer?

He decided he didn’t really have a choice, he must see his family. He decided to try the tunnel. Remarkably, he made it to Gaza in time to spend Eid with his family.

A month later, he left Gaza the same way he entered. Next time, he hopes that he will be allowed to enter and exit legally and in such a way that respects his humanity.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


it gave me tears

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