By  Ola Attallah, IOL Correspondent
Egypt is reportedly building a steel fence on the borders with the Gaza Strip to prevent smuggling through the borders.

GAZA CITY – Amer, 42, was busy digging under the ground along the borders with Egypt when his machine struck a metal sheet.Helped by his workers, he tried tirelessly to dig his way through, but with no success.

“Then one of the guys suggested we dig deeper to bypass the metal sheets,” Amer told IslamOnline.net.

After several attempts, they were able to accomplish the mission.

Egypt is reportedly building a steel fence on the borders with the Gaza Strip to prevent smuggling through the borders.

Egyptian machines were seen digging the area, inserting pipes and metal sheets into the ground.

The iron fence will reportedly reach a depth of between 18-30 meter underground.

“People moving commodities inside the tunnels found cement blocs and steel sheets,” Abu Amgad, a tunnel owner, told IOL.

“But we dug several meters deeper until we could bypass them.”

The Egyptian government neither denied nor confirmed reports about building the fence.

But its independent press has confirmed and criticized the fence for tightening the nose further on Gaza’s 1.6 million people, who rely on tunnels for their basic needs in view of a years-long Israeli blockade.

An unspecified number of tunnels stretches along the 14-kilometre (eight-mile) border between Gaza and Egypt.

Lifeline

Many Gazans seem untroubled by the Egyptian barrier.

“We will never give up as long as the siege remains on Gaza,” Abu Asaad, a tunnel owner, told IOL.

“We will not stop digging tunnels and will fight anything that stands in our way.”

The subterranean passages are supplying fuel, domestic goods and livestock to Gaza, in what the UN described as a “vital economic lifeline.”

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has criticized the US-funded barrier.

UNRWA chief Karen Abu Zeid likened it to the Bar Lev Line, built by Israel along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it occupied the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in the 1967 war.

She said 60 percent of Gaza economy depends on the tunnels, which have become the main source of basic supplies to the sealed off coastal enclave.

“Without the tunnels, the people of Gaza would have died,” said Hani, a young Gazan.

“No matter how strong the barrier, we will find a way to defeat it,” he asserted defiantly.

Abu Asaad, the tunnel owner, agrees.

“We will do everything in our power to defeat it. Gaza will never die.”