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Suffering in Numbers

Saleh Al-Naami writes in Al-Ahram:

Prayer time and afternoon naps excepted, Mohamed Saleh and Hassan Barak spend most of their day together conversing at the crossroads separating their homes in the southern quarter of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in central Gaza. Saleh and Barak, who both work in construction, have been unemployed since Hamas took exclusive control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, Israel has tightened its stifling siege of the Strip and prohibited the entrance of materials used in construction, putting the entire sector out of work. The housing project begun with European and Arab funding in the suburbs of the Tel Sultan neighbourhood south of Rafah has ground to a halt, as have the infrastructure projects of local councils across the Strip.

Industrial activity in Gaza has practically halted as well. According to statistics of the Palestinian Businessmen’s Association, 3,190 factories in the Strip have closed because of the inability to import raw materials. This has rendered 56,000 workers unemployed. Further aggravating the situation, Israel has barred Palestinian farmers from exporting their agricultural crops through commercial crossings along the border separating the Strip from Israel, crashing prices and the internal market for producers.

Maher Al-Tabaa, director of public relations in the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, notes that due to the siege imposed on the Strip, merchants are losing $5 million a day, a sum that when distributed across the Strip affects the life and bare survival of thousands of families. Al-Tabaa warns that the price of consumer goods will rise significantly due to the closure of Gaza’s commercial crossings.

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