New official Israeli data, released by Gisha, an NGO, confirms a sharp fall in the number of Israeli-issued exit permits for Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
According to the figures, the number of the number of active senior merchant permits fell from 410 permits in May 2016, to only 105 in June and 193 in August.
Meanwhile, the number of active merchant permits fell from 3,181 in January 2016 to 2,438 in September 2016, a drop of 23 per cent. At the same time, the number of applications for merchant permits that were refused jumped by over 100 per cent between January and August.
Overall, October saw just 7,101 exits of Palestinians via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, down from 11,050 in September and 13,446 in August. October's figure is just half the monthly average January-June 2016 (14,100).
The number of truckloads of goods entering Gaza (including fuel, gas and construction materials) also fell in October – 8,383 from a September figure of 9,731, and compared to a monthly average in January-June of 10,892.
It is important to note that during October, Erez was fully or partially closed on 12 days of the month due to Jewish holidays, while Kerem Shalom was similarly closed for eight days.
According to UN officials, in September 2016 the rate of denials for UN staff with Gaza IDs stood at 41 per cent, compared to 21 per cent in June and only 3 per cent in January.
"Given that these employees need to travel regularly for their work in international humanitarian agencies", Gisha notes, "it's difficult to see this as anything other than an irrational and punitive measure."
Meanwhile, figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) show that the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip has risen from 41.7 per cent in the 2nd quarter to 43.2 per cent in the 3rd quarter.
"The unemployment rate would be even higher", Gisha notes, "if it weren't for the salaries of public workers and government employees, who are not part of the 'productive' workforce, i.e. manufacturing and production, which points to a very thin layer of 'real' economic activity."