Rights group: Israel ruining economy in Gaza Strip

Gisha report: 75% of Gaza's factories have shut down since Hamas took power.

Palestinians Erez 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinians Erez 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The virtually total closure imposed on the Gaza Strip since Hamas's takeover in June has almost destroyed the Palestinian economy and threatens to turn its 1.4 million residents into charity cases, Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, charged in a report released Wednesday. Israel has completely shut down the Karni crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which was the primary artery for the import and export of almost all commercial items including goods and raw materials. Since the closure, import of humanitarian goods has been allowed through the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Erez crossings, but their capacities are highly limited, according to the report. The new policy, which, according to Gisha, is aimed at bringing the Hamas government to its knees, has exacerbated the already dire economic plight of the population. Seventy-five percent of Gaza's factories have shut down because of the closure. The rest are operating on borrowed time, until the stocks of raw materials are exhausted. Eighty-five percent of the population is already dependent on food aid from international organizations and the number is growing. There is a severe shortage of raw materials including flour and sugar for domestic and industrial consumption. The price of flour has increased by 34 percent, powdered milk by 30% and rice by 20%. Israel has erased from its computers the customs code used to identify goods entering Gaza and issued orders not to release them until further notice. This policy has cost Palestinian importers $1.5 million in the first two weeks of the closure, including fines paid for the use of rented containers, breach of contracts and damage to goods stored in warehouses for extended periods of time, the organization said. The policy has also paralyzed agricultural exports from Gaza to Israel, the West Bank and other countries. According to Gisha, Israel still occupies Gaza despite the disengagement largely because it controls all the land border crossings and controls and prohibits access to the area by air and sea. Therefore, Israel is obliged by international law to protect the civilian population under its control. "Instead," Gisha charged, "it has adopted a policy of collective punishment, in violation of international humanitarian law, which explicitly provides that no person shall be punished for a deed he did not commit."