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Cigarette smuggling has crippled aid delivery in Gaza as smokes go for $25 apiece

High cigarette prices in the Gaza Strip have spawned a cigarette smuggling industry that now threatens United Nations aid convoys, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Cigarettes can cost as much as $25 a stick in war-torn areas, and gangs are finding ways to smuggle them in with aid packages. One group of Palestinian men last week demanded access to a United Nations warehouse they knew had a cache of cigarettes. According to the journal.

Aid convoys operating in Gaza are already being blocked by Palestinian mobs, and this smuggling operation will only make them more dangerous.

Demand for cigarettes soared after Israeli forces took control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in early May, effectively banning all trade and cutting off a steady flow of tobacco products into Gaza.

As the conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas continues, Palestinians are seen climbing onto trucks in the central Gaza Strip to receive aid delivered to Gaza through a US-built jetty.

Piggybackers then began smuggling products into the region through aid shipments arriving at UN facilities from around the world.

Controversy grows over Biden’s Gaza dock construction, raising concerns over cost and safety

The dangers have led aid groups to refuse to deliver supplies across the Gaza border, with more than 1,000 truckloads of aid still remaining inside the Gaza Strip at Kerem Shalom, on the border with Israel, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Box, Palestinian

Palestinians looted a truck carrying humanitarian aid near the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

“This threatens to undermine everything we are trying to do,” a UN official told the media.

President Biden’s administration tried last month to build a temporary pier on Gaza’s coast to make it easier to transport aid, but the effort failed within days when bad weather made it unusable.

Before and after: Photos show Biden’s destruction of $320 million Gaza dock

The United Nations also announced on June 10 that it would halt food distribution at the pier, which the United States spent about $320 million to build, due to safety concerns.

President Biden's administration tried last month to build a temporary pier on Gaza's coast to make it easier to transport aid, but the effort failed after bad weather rendered it unusable within days.

President Biden’s administration tried last month to build a temporary pier on Gaza’s coast to make it easier to transport aid, but the effort failed after bad weather rendered it unusable within days.

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In early June, two warehouses storing aid delivered to the pier were hit by rocket attacks, halting deliveries. The Biden administration says it remains committed to maintaining the pier.

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