[tweetmeme] Earlier today I mentioned the financial problems of Hamas and spoke about how a poor Hamas led to the increased radicalization of the population of Gaza. Currently, Hamas is working on maintaining and secret cease-fire with Israel and has tried to prevent other radical groups from attacking the Jewish country. The Israeli-Egyptian blockade has put a major strain on the ability of Hamas to raise money. In the past, Hamas raised money from taxing the tunnels into Egypt and relying on donations from foreign sources.
Immediately after publishing the post, a commenter posted a link to an article saying that Hamas has ordered the tunnels into Egypt to be shut. Reports indicate that the indefinite closure of the tunnels – which are the main lifeline of the Gazan economy – may have to do with the Israeli warning of terrorist cells in the Sinai looking to kidnap Israeli tourists. Other reports claim that the tunnels were closed in fear of an Israeli strike.
Every report that I have found declares that Hamas has not given a reason for the closure, leaving many to simply speculate. The linkage between the closure of the tunnels and the militant threats in the Sinai is interesting. If Hamas has indeed forged a secret cease-fire with Israel, then the tunnel closure may be a way to keep militants from bringing any kidnapped Israeli into Gaza. From the Guardian:
The tunnel closure appears intended to stop militant groups bringing in kidnap victims from Egypt into Gaza and could have been due to pressure from the Egyptian government. Hamas officials would not say why the tunnels were shut.
If this is true, then it must be safe to assume that there is some contact between the Israeli and Hamas governments; displaying yet another act of moderation by Hamas.
The other possibility is that Hamas is either behind the alleged plot to kidnap Israelis or fears that it will be seen as involved or complicit. If that happens, it might influence an Israeli decision to invade Gaza looking for the kidnapped and Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli soldier who is thought to be somewhere in Gaza.
Either way, the closure of the tunnels shows a risk averse Hamas. Considering the poor financial situation of Hamas (apparently banks are beginning to comply with the US sanctions against Hamas, resulting in the inability of Hamas to access foreign aid), a prolonged closure of the tunnels could be devastating for Gaza and Hamas.
On a related note, check out Gaza Gateway for information on the imports and exports as well as the effects of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade.