ISRAEL must lift restrictions on Gaza’s trade so that Palestinians can brace for the impact of the coronavirus crisis and secure much-needed protective wear, anti-blockade campaigners have warned.
Economic life in the territory has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since Hamas gained power from rival Palestinian political groups in 2001.
The blockade and Israeli attacks have devastated the local economy; unemployment stands at about 50 per cent.
Although there have been only 17 cases detected and quarantined, Gaza’s two-million population remains at risk of an outbreak. Businesses remain open for the time being.
Israeli group Gisha, which advocates for the easing of the blockade on Gaza, appealed to Israeli leaders on Saturday to do more to promote economic activity in the territory.
The group said in a statement: “The pandemic has created a demand for [protective equipment].
“But Israel must lift restrictions on trade entirely so that Gaza residents can work and so that Gaza’s faltering economy can brace itself as much as possible against the wider global crisis caused by the pandemic.”
Sewing factories in the Gaza Strip reopened in the past few years after the easing of restrictions by Israel after its 2014 miltary onslaught, and have recently begun working at full capacity to produce masks, gloves and protective gowns, including some bound for Israel.
Bahaa garment company owner Rizq al-Madhoun said he has produced more than a million masks in the past three weeks, “all for the Israeli market.”
He told the Associated Press on Saturday that Gaza does not have advanced machinery, but said the people’s sewing skills are unmatched.
Bashir Bawab who owns Unipal 2000, a factory which employs 800 workers, said: “Despite the siege in Gaza, we export these masks and protective clothes to the whole world without exception.
“We feel we are doing a humanitarian duty.”
Both factory bosses said that they framed their work in terms of business and humanitarian needs rather than political aims.
Workers in Gaza earn as little as 29 Israeli shekels (£6.47) per day.
Think tank PalThink’s Omar Shaban said that conditions created by the blockade allow for exploitation, but that low-wage jobs still provide income for many people.
Israel claims the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from arming itself.
Source: Morning Star.