Until last week, an intricate tunnel system ran beneath Gaza’s southern border, linking the city of Rafah to Egypt. These tunnels were a lifeline for Gaza, running everything from food, fuel, medicine and commercial goods to weapons for Hamas and other militant groups. In a country with closed borders, it was their only way to import what they needed.
In the last week, Israeli air assaults on Gaza have dealt a crippling blow to the tunnel system, destroying most and making those that do remain impossible to pass. On the Egyptian side, the military is out in force making sure that no one passing through any tunnels that may have survived the attacks.
In August I was granted access to descend into and photograph a Hamas tunnel system, something that few local journalists, much less foreign press are allowed to see or document. Palestinians risk their lives working in the tunnels both for monetary reward and basic survival, so for me it was interesting to document the risks they take in order to dig and operate these tunnels. They have always been a risky operation and many people have lost their lives. Three people died in a tunnel collapse the day before I arrived to shoot this story and the tunnel I was supposed to visit collapsed on my trip down to Rafah from Gaza City.
The Gaza/Egypt border line in Rafah August, 2008. The metal wall constructed by Israel to allow their tanks and troops into Gaza but keep Palestinians from exiting was cut down by Hamas after coming into power.
An apartment complex riddled with bullet holes from Israeli fire on Rafah, Gaza
A home damaged by Israeli Defense Force fire in Rafah
A wall damaged by gun and tank fire in Rafah
Hamas tunnel workers prepare to send someone down the 30m (100 feet) shaft to work in the tunnel in Rafah
A 30m (100 feet) shaft leading to a Hamas run tunnel linking Gaza to Egypt
Palestinian tunnel workers monitor the descent of another into a tunnel leading to Egypt in Rafah
A worker completes his descent deep underground into a Hamas-run tunnel leading from Rafah to Egypt
A man works in confined spaces underground in a tunnel leading from Rafah to Egypt
A Hamas-operated tunnel leading from Rafah to Egypt
A Palestinian worker prepares a plastic sled that will be pulled by a winch to Egypt, loaded with goods and sent back to Rafah
A tunnel worker uses a crude intercom system to communicate with other workers far above his head at street level