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Siege forces Gaza's Pepsi factory to close

A Palestinian employee sorts bottles at the PEPSI factory in Gaza's industrial zone on June 21, 2021. [MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images]

Gaza's Pepsi bottling company was forced to halt operations this week due to Israeli import restrictions that were tightened during its 11-day assault on the Strip, Reuters reported the company's owners saying.

A ceasefire was agreed on 20 May and came into effect in the early hours of the following day. Though Israel has carried out air strikes against Gaza a number of times since, resistance factions have not responded with fire.

Occupation authorities have also kept in place tightened measures on raw material imports, including carbon dioxide gas and syrup that the bottling company's factory needs to produce Pepsi, 7UP and Mirinda soda, said Pepsi Gaza's Hamam Al-Yazeji.

"Yesterday, we completely ran out of raw materials, and unfortunately we had to shut down the factory, sending home 250 workers," Al-Yazeji said. Before the May fighting, he said, Pepsi Gaza was generally allowed to import needed materials.

READ: 20 factories destroyed, 5,000 jobs lost due to Israel's offensive on Gaza

Israeli occupation officials did not immediately provide comment on the tightened restrictions.

Shutdowns could also occur in other Gaza factories if Israeli restrictions are kept up, analysts say. Manufacturing makes up around ten per cent of Gaza's service sector-dominated economy, according to UN data.

Pepsi Gaza's factory has operated continuously since 1961, when the Gaza-based Yazeji Soft Drinks Company acquired rights to produce 7UP and other types of soda in the enclave.

Worth about $15 million, the owners say, the factory's products are distributed locally. A separate branch operates in the occupied West Bank, worth about $30 million, which serves the territory as well as occupied East Jerusalem.

Company officials had made plans to celebrate 60 years of operations before the shutdown yesterday.

Al-Yazeji had tears in his eyes as he walked through his empty factory today. The shutdown was "catastrophic", he said.

"This year should have been exceptional, celebrating 60 years since we began production."

"We are deprived of marking this anniversary."

On the last day of Israel's bombardment of Gaza last month, it targeted the Gaza Industrial City, with direct shells fired at six factories. The attack left Pepsi rival, Coca Cola, without a plant in the besieged enclave.

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