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Tunnel commerce brings large supply of cigarettes and soda to Gaza.

Gaza / PNN -- Under 24 days of closure, ironically the price of Marlboros has dropped to a third its price in the Gaza Strip. With imports banned under closed crossings, save for 40 truckloads of humanitarian aid two days ago, goods entering the Gaza Strip are coming through the tunnels between Rafah and the Egyptian northern Sinai.The Israeli blockade has left the Gaza economy nearly destroyed, but the affects are rippling during this unusual period of trading in smuggled goods. The price of fuel for heating, cooking or running generators has skyrocketed with residents reporting an increase of five to six times. Egyptian authorities reported last week that supplies of fuel for the northern Sinai were dwindling due to smuggling. However diesel fuel to run cars, most of which in Gaza are diesel, is going for three shekels per liter instead of six as it is within Israeli boundaries. Gaza residents say this is because the quality of diesel smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt is low, which has driven the price down. Supermarket shelves are nearly empty of food, household products and diapers. But stocks of cigarettes and soft drinks are up, which has in turn driven prices down. Marlboros are currently going for six shekels per pack. In the West Bank they are between 15 and 18 shekels.One shop owner said, "When Israel opened the Karem Abu Salem crossing in southern Gaza for a short period on Monday, I asked for many of the things that have run out, but I only received a few cartons of yoghurt."Residents are living on a largely vegetable diet as those are grown locally, however rice and coffee are unavailable as is meat due to the expense. Earlier on during the siege animals were imported, while some are still smuggled in, but prices have become prohibitive.With fuel for the power plant mostly unavailable, but still some electricity coming in from Israeli power lines, some families were going without for 12 hours per 24 since the "period of calm" began five months ago. However now, there is nearly none.With most of the bakeries closed without flour or working machines, one owner says he operates in the middle of the night to take advantage of the most electricity he can get.

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Publication:Palestine News Network (West Bank, Palestine)
Date:Nov 28, 2008
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