World View: Egypt Flooding Gaza Tunnels to Curb Smuggling

This morning's key headlines from

  • Egypt flooding Gaza tunnels to curb smuggling
  • Hamas closes hundreds of tunnels from Gaza over health concerns
  • Venezuela's Hugo Chavez undergoing 'complex, tough' treatment
  • North Korean nuclear test exploits U.S. - China tensions

Egypt flooding Gaza tunnels to curb smuggling

An Arab working outside a smuggling tunnel connecting Gaza with Egypt
An Arab working outside a smuggling tunnel connecting Gaza with Egypt

For the last five days, Egyptian forces have been flooding with water the underground tunnels that smugglers in Gaza have dug to allow goods to reach Gaza without having to pay taxes, or be confiscated if they're illegal. An estimated 30% of all goods that reach Gaza come through the tunnels, circumventing the Israeli blockade. Flooding the tunnels causes them to collapse and makes the unusable. According to one Gaza resident:

"Egyptian measures against tunnels have worsened since the election of Morsi. Our Hamas brothers thought he would open up Gaza. I guess they were wrong. Perhaps 150 or 200 tunnels have been shut since the Sinai attack. This is the Morsi era."

Before 2010, there were some 2500-3000 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, but the number has shrunk markedly since Israel eased some of the limits they imposed on imports into Gaza. Reuters

Hamas closes hundreds of tunnels from Gaza over health concerns

What's interesting about this tunnel story is the variety of explanations being given by different news agencies. Reuters, quoted above, says that the tunnel flooding is opposed by the Hamas government in Egypt. However, AFP is reporting that Hamas and Egypt are cooperating to close the tunnels, because they're being used to smuggle drugs and other harmful items into Gaza. According to an unnamed Hamas official:

"Many of them were closed down because they were used to smuggle banned materials that harm citizens."

Finally, an analysis in Jewish Press says, "Egypt is flooding Gaza smuggling tunnels, choking off one of Hamas’ biggest sources for money and placing a virtual siege far more severe than Israel ever created."

We report, you decide. AFP and Jewish Press

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez undergoing 'complex, tough' treatment

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is undergoing “very complex and tough” medical treatment in Cuba, where he has been hospitalized since Dec. 11 after undergoing cancer surgery. According to vice president Nicolas Maduro:

"Our commander is being subjected to supplementary treatment, as we have reported, treatments (that are) very complex and tough. [Chávez is] undergoing alternative treatments ... but they are complicated and difficult treatments that must – at some point – end the cycle of his illness."

The last report on Chávez's condition was given on January 26. At that time, his progress was said to be "favorable," though he continued to have "a certain level of respiratory insufficiency." Latin American Herald Tribune

North Korean nuclear test exploits U.S. - China tensions

The U.N. Security Council issued "strong condemnations" of North Korea's nuclear test, but is unlikely to do anything more than issue statements. China had threatened trade sanctions if North Korea went ahead with the test, but is now considered unlikely to do anything. China is unwilling to back any U.N. sanctions on North Korea, for fear that it could lead to upheaval, causing an outcome that might favor the U.S., and sending a refugee flood into China. China has even less flexibility with N. Korea, now that it feels threatened by the U.S. military "pivot" from Europe to Asia. North Korea is aware of this tension, and feels free to blatantly disregard China's wishes, secure in the knowledge that no serious sanctions will be imposed by anyone. Reuters

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