The Chamber of Commerce in Gaza has reported that nearly two million Palestinians are facing the month of Ramadan under the worst economic conditions in decades. The blame has been placed on the effects of Israel’s offensive against the beleaguered territory last summer and the Israeli-led blockade, which has entered its ninth year.
The Director of Public Relations at the Chamber of Commerce, Maher Al-Tabbaa, added that the Palestinians in Gaza are also entering the holy month with record levels of unemployment and poverty. The unemployment rate now stands at 55 per cent, meaning that over a quarter of a million individuals have no work.
“Over one million Gazans have no daily income,” said Al-Tabbaa, “which represents 60 per cent of the entire population. In addition, the poverty rate has reached 39 per cent; what is called ‘extreme poverty’ affects 21 per cent of the population across the whole Gaza Strip.”
He pointed out that Ramadan has come at a time when the markets are suffering from economic recession and stagnation in all activities, most importantly in trade, which is suffering from a drop in sales due to the weak purchasing power of Gaza’s citizens.
Al-Tabbaa stated that the war waged by Israel against the Gaza Strip last year lasted 51 days and increased the number of unemployed people by around 200,000. “They were the breadwinners for 900,000 people,” he explained.
To alleviate this suffering, Al-Tabbaa urged international bodies to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and open all trade crossings and ports.
According to a World Bank statement last month, Gaza’s unemployment is among the highest levels in the world. “Nearly 80 per cent of the people receive some sort of aid, and 40 per cent live below the poverty line,” it said.
The Israeli authorities have besieged Gaza since the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won the legislative elections in January 2006. The authorities then intensified the siege after the movement gained control of the Gaza Strip one year later. The siege continues to be imposed despite the fact that Hamas stepped down as the government of Gaza after the announcement of the Palestinian national unity government a year ago, on 2 June, 2014. The blockade by Israel is seen by many as collective punishment of the Palestinians, which is illegal under international law.