‘Lifeline for Gaza’: Businesses raise concerns after Israel halts exports

The Karem Abu Salem crossing is the sole passage for the transport of goods, fuel and aid between Israel and Gaza.

Kerem Abu Salem crossing in Gaza
A truck loaded with goods at the Karem Abu Salem crossing, the only commercial passage between Gaza and Israel [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Gaza City, Gaza Strip – Business owners in Gaza are concerned about the future of their work after Israel imposed a ban on all exports from the Gaza Strip passing through the Karem Abu Salem crossing.

On Monday, Israeli authorities announced a halt to commercial exports from Gaza to Israel after an “alleged attempt to smuggle explosives”. Karem Abu Salem is the only crossing Israel allows to be used for commercial shipments.

The move was condemned by Palestinian industrial and economic unions, which warned of potential economic and social consequences.

A man working in a factory
A worker in a plastic pipe factory in Gaza. Twenty percent of its production is for export to the occupied West Bank [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

‘Production exceeds local demand’

Walid Ballour, who manages a factory making plastic pipes, told Al Jazeera the decision came as a shock.

“We were loading a car with an order of pipes for Ramallah when the decision came,” Ballour said. “We have also three export orders on the schedule supposed to go out tomorrow to the West Bank, but they were stopped because of the decision.”

The factory exports about 20 percent of its production – about 10 tonnes of pipes a day – to the occupied West Bank.

Ballour told Al Jazeera that management had to give some of the factory’s 30 workers open-ended leave.

“Local demand is light, and we rely mainly on exports to the West Bank,” he said.

“We hope that this decision will be reversed and there will be an external intervention to pressure the Israeli side to cancel it.”

A man works in a fish exports company
Awni Abu Hasira at his fish-exporting company in Gaza [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

‘A lifeline for Gaza’

Awni Abu Hasira, director of a fish supply company in Gaza and the West Bank, told Al Jazeera that he was surprised by the news.

“As fishmongers, the West Bank is an essential market for us, and this closure will make us incur heavy losses day after day.”

On the day of the crossing shutdown, Abu Hasira’s company was supposed to export 10 tonnes of fish to the West Bank. Their losses may add up to $500,000.

“We had to sell the fish in the local market at half price. It affected us not only as merchants and businessmen but also as simple fishermen. There are a lot of groups affected.”

Abu Hasira pointed out that exporting to the occupied West Bank is a lifeline for Gaza, especially its fishing sector.

“Selling in the local market is very weak due to the deteriorating economic conditions,” he said. “My company depends entirely on supplying the Jericho governorate. This decision is a death sentence for my company, which supports 10 homes in Gaza.”

A plastic factory in Gaza
The products exported through the Karem Abu Salem crossing include furniture, textiles and farm goods [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

‘Collective punishment’

The General Federation of Palestinian Industries in Gaza denounced the Israeli decision at a news conference, branding it “collective punishment” that worsens the hardship endured by two million people in Gaza living under an Israeli blockade for 17 years.

Waddah Bseiso, spokesman for the federation, told Al Jazeera this decision will significantly impact Gaza’s economy, particularly the industrial sector, in which hundreds of facilities are now in danger of closing because they rely heavily on exports.

Such closures would result in thousands of workers losing their jobs, he said.

Bseiso urged Israel to reverse its decision: “We urgently call for the reopening of the Karem Abu Salem crossing and the removal of sanctions that worsen the plight of the population and hinder the chances for economic development, peace and stability in the Gaza Strip.”

Source: Al Jazeera