Factories, banks paralyzed in North

As the violence on the northern border intensified Thursday, most factories and bank branches in the area closed down. Work at nearly all 260 factories in the north of the country slowed to a stop because of the fear of barrages from Lebanon and the difficulty of employees getting into work, according to an initial survey carried out by the Manufacturers' Association. The crisis is estimated to be costing the manufacturing sector NIS 20 million to NIS 50m. daily. The association added that this figure did not take into account damages caused by rocket damage and the loss of future orders. The survey revealed that all 10 factories in Kiryat Shmona were closed, as well as the four factories in Shlomi, the 12 factories in Nahariya and the four factories in Ma'alot-Tarshiha. The four factories in Rosh Pina were partly operating, while the four factories in Tefen were operating as usual. Factories in the area complained that they had to close their gates, as military command was blocking the roads and they were not receiving equipment and essential raw materials. The Manufacturers' Association has declared its northern branch an emergency headquarter to deal with questions and problems manufacturers are encountering as a result of the fighting. Separately, Israel's major banks - including Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank, Union Bank of Israel and Bank Mizrahi Tefahot shut all of their branches in the north including Nahariya, Shlomi, Ma'alot-Tarshiha and Kiryat Shmona because of the security situation. Bank Mizrahi Tefahot advised bank customers to seek services at their bank branches in Akko. Bank Hapoalim, which closed all of its four branches in the north, has set up a special hotline for the time being. The bank added that the branches would be reopened on Friday - a day when the branches are usually closed - if the security situation allowed it.