Just days after ceasefire and Palestinians are already rebuilding bombed network of secret tunnels which bring food and weapons into Gaza
Hundreds of tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt are thought to have been destroyed or damaged during the eight-day offensiveWorkers were pictured today using planks, sandbags and excavators to repair the tunnelsComes as Egyptian mediators try to help negotiate new border arrangements
22:40 GMT, 26 November 2012
Palestinians are working to rebuild a network of smuggling tunnels that were targeted during eight days of violence in Gaza.
Just days after a ceasefire was called between Palestine and Israel, workers were today trying to repair the network that is used to bring in food and arms from Egypt.
Experts estimate that as of yesterday about half of the network of hundreds of tunnels was still in use.
Secret tunnel: A worker repairs a smuggling tunnel dug beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip today
Targeted: About half of the network of hundreds of tunnels are believed to still be in operation following eight days of violence. Workers, pictured, drag crates of sand as they try to repair the damaged tunnel
Repairs: Residents along the Egypt-Gaza borders have today seen inspectors checking for damage in the tunnel network
The Associated Press said people living along the Egypt-Gaza border today spoke of workers inspecting the damage but that many of the tunnels are still in operation.
While the tunnels are considered a lifeline to bring in vital goods such as fuel and construction materials into Gaza, they are also used by Hamas to illegally import weapons.
A report by the International Crisis Group estimated that between $500 and $700 million worth of goods are passed through the Egypt-Gaza tunnels each year.
They have been used to get goods into the Gaza strip since 2007 when the Israelis stepped up a blockade.
Benedetta Berti, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told USA Today: 'You can smuggle weapons, have people going in and out. Security on the border and monitoring tunnels … has to be done.'
Photographs taken today show workers using sand, wooden planks and excavators to make urgent repairs to the damaged network, as international aid agencies also raced to replenish supplies to Gaza's 1.6 million residents.
Resting: Palestinians smoke cigarettes as they work inside a smuggling tunnel. It is estimated between $500 and $700 million worth of goods are passed through the network
Life line: A Palestinian smuggler waits for a cart containing gravel inside a tunnel dug beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border in Rafah
Network: A Palestinian is pictured working at the entrance of a smuggling tunnel – one of hundreds connecting Gaza and Egypt
Secret: A man emerges from a smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border
Costly: Workers try to repair some of the tunnels. A Hamas spokesman said Israel's eight-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip has caused more than $1.2 billion in direct and indirect damages
Today, Egyptian mediators began
discussions with both sides to negotiate new border arrangements for the
impoverished coastal strip.
It follows the ceasefire on Wednesday which called a halt to eight days of violence that left 160 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, and six Israelis, including four civilians, dead.
The deal called for the ‘opening of crossings and facilitating the movement of people of goods’.
Israel agreed to end hostilities and Hamas agreed to stop its attacks.
Todays's indirect talks between Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip and Israel were the first since the end of the violence.
The militants want Israel to lift what remains of its blockade of Gaza, imposed five years ago after Hamas seized control of the territory from its Western-backed rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
While Israel has eased the blockade in recent years, key restrictions remain in place on exports out of Gaza and the entry of badly needed building materials into the territory.
The Palestinians are hopeful that Egypt's new Islamist government will ease its own restrictions on movement in and out of the territory.
Egypt still limits foot traffic through the Rafah border crossing. The militants also hope to turn the Rafah terminal into a major cargo crossing.
In return, Israel wants an end to arms smuggling into Gaza. Iranian-made weapons have made their way into Gaza through a circuitous route that ends with underground tunnels along the Egyptian border.
Damaged: An excavator operates at the site of a destroyed smuggling tunnel. The network of tunnels was targeted during the eight-day Israeli offensive – although about half are believed to be still in use
Target: Smoke and fire rises from an explosion by a high rise housing media organisation in Gaza City during a strike on November 19
Strike: Palestinians flee their homes after an Israeli forces strike on nearby a sports field in Gaza City last week
Armed: Israeli soldiers prepare weapons in a deployment area on November 19