IDF soldiers speak with Palestinians in Hebron last week during the manhunt for three kidnapped Israeli youth..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Palestinians in and around Hebron said they had paid a heavy price since the beginning of the IDF operation to locate the three kidnapped Israeli youths nearly two weeks ago.
Although the IDF has removed many roadblocks in the area over the past 48 hours, Palestinians said that it would take days or weeks before life returns to normal.
About 20,000 Palestinians from the area have lost their permits to work inside Israel, Ghazi Hirbawi, chairman of the Hebron Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.
Hirbawi told Palestinian Wattan TV that more than 3,000 merchants and businessmen from the same area have had their permits revoked by Israeli authorities since the kidnapping. He estimated the damage to the local economy at more than $10 million per day.
Hebron is considered a major center for trade and commerce in the West Bank and is famous for its light industry, including many shoe and clothes factories.
Mohammed Shkhaidem, a shopkeeper, complained that his income has dropped by 90 percent as a result of the strict IDF measures.
He pointed out that many Palestinians from different parts of the West Bank, as well as Israeli Arabs who used to do their shopping in the city and nearby villages, have “disappeared” since the beginning of the IDF operation.
The Palestinian Authority governor of Hebron, Kamel Hmaid, warned that the situation was on the verge of an “explosion” as a result of the IDF operation.
Noting that thousands of Hebron residents have been banned from traveling through the Allenby Bridge, he said that 180 Palestinians have been arrested in the Hebron area since the kidnapping of the three youths.
Maher Qaisi, director of the PA Economy Ministry in the Hebron zone, estimated the damage to the local economy at “millions of shekels.”
He claimed the IDF had prevented merchandise from entering or leaving the Hebron region over the past 12 days.
The Palestinian government has promised to set up a special committee to assess the damage to the economy in the Hebron area following the IDF crackdown.
PA Economy Minister Mohamed Mustafa visited Hebron on Monday and met with the governor and local businessmen to discuss the repercussions of the IDF operation.
“We are facing an economic disaster,” businessman Emad Qawasmeh said. “The Israeli military operation has paralyzed the city’s commerce, as people are afraid to leave their homes, especially during the night.”