Welcome to the Muddled East


First, this:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Thursday and appealed to him to authorize the construction of a moat that would prevent weapons being smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Philadelphi Corridor, Channel 1 reported Thursday.

Abbas proposed that the corridor, currently a land barrier under which terror groups dig tunnels in order to move weapons and ammunition, be turned into a trench and flooded with sea water.

Once the corridor was flooded, any tunnels dug beneath it would collapse.

Sounds like a great idea. But not very original. The IDF proposed this idea about three years ago, but didn’t get approval to proceed from the government.

Interestingly, the anti-Israeli organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) was critical of the original plan in a 2004 report:

Another option is to fill the trench with water like a moat to block tunnels or to flood them if penetrated.

The project as described is highly problematic on several grounds and may carry serious consequences for the welfare of the civilian population in the area. First, the IDF has argued that construction of the trench may require further mass demolitions to widen the buffer zone, in order to reduce risk to those digging the trench.143 This would defeat the purpose of digging a trench in order to obviate the need for demolitions.

Even without demolitions, the project seems impractical from engineering and environmental perspectives. The Rafah ground slopes gradually upward from west to east, so that a moat connected to the sea would require leveling the land at enormous cost, one water engineer said. If the moat is intended to reach both the water table and the Mediterranean Sea, it would mix sea water with underground drinking water, greatly exacerbating the already pressing water crisis in the Gaza Strip. If the trench was filled with water from another source, it would have to be circulated regularly to prevent it from becoming stagnant and threatening public health.

Do you think that HRW will be as critical of the idea now that it’s pushed by Abbas?

Meanwhile, hidden somewhere deep in the bowels of a Reuters news article (is that a tautology?), we find Hamas have imposed a new customs duty on food imported from Israel:

Merchants said they can’t get their products to the markets without first paying 2,000 shekels ($465) in fees to the Hamas-led administration in the Gaza Strip, despite a decree by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah to exempt individuals and companies from paying taxes in the territory.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, tax ’em.

Speaking of corruption, Ynet reports that bribery is suspected in the oh-so-unsurprising Hamas salary scandal:

A senior official in the Palestinian Authority Finance Ministry is suspected of illegally transferring yearly salaries to 3,500 members of the Hamas security forces, in violation of Fatah policy since Hamas’ forceful takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

… it appears that the case is a criminal one and Hamas bribed Finance Ministry workers to attain the money.

So where did they get the money to bribe the Finance Ministry workers?


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