Israel eases energy blockade on Gaza

The blockade drew harsh criticism from around the world around the weekend as Gaza City plunged into chilly darkness. This man is spokesman for the UN Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees, �First of all let me condemn the use of Kasam rockets, they are unable to distinguish competence and non-competence and therefore they are a violation of international law. Having said that, it seems to defy all humanitarian logic that 1.5 million people should be collectively punished for the deeds of a handful of militants.� The Israeli government today allowed what it called a one-time shipment of fuel for the power plant but said it other restrictions would remain in place. Prime Minister Olmert said a degree of hardship in the Gaza Strip did not bother him. Olmert said that as far as he was concerned, Gazans could walk if they don't have fuel for their cars because they have a terrorist regime that is not letting the residents of southern Israel live in peace. Gazans may now be getting light and heat again but not much else, almost all supplies come from the outside. This biscuit company has perhaps the only factory still running in Gaza. The Managing Director says she can get the flour and sugar inside Gaza but she's running out of packaging materials which come from Israel. She says the last six months have been the worst, but she's watched Gaza's economy slowly evaporate over the last several years. When the factory runs out of wrappers in one month, she thinks the plant will send home its 300 employees and probably never open again. The machines will fall into disrepair and the parent companies will take their business to either Egypt or Jordan, �What will happen in Gaza? I don't know. This is the worst I can see it now. this is the worst, so no more worse things will come.� �97% of the industrial establishments have stopped. The only working center is the food and village industries. These 3% which are working, they work with less than 30% capacity.� This man heads the Palestinian Federation of Industries in Gaza. He says since Hamas took over the Strip, Israel has slowly squeezed access to Gazan exports and imports. About 75,000 have lost their jobs in the past year and he estimates that each one of those workers had about six dependants. Visiting his office is the owner of a furniture factory. He says he still leaves the house every day just so his family will think he's working, �What I am doing, I have no business now. I am moving in the city by my car just to save time, not to stay at home because I want to show to my family that I'm a businessman and I have something to do.� He says his skilled workers have left, many of them joined the Hamas-controlled security forces so they can at least earn some cash. He says the people of Gaza are being punished by Israel as well as the rival Fatah party for electing Hamas. Smaller merchants have it even worse than the big factories. In Gaza City's open air markets, the vendors are out but no one's buying anything. This woman is a sixty year old grandmother. She sold clothing around the Gaza Strip for 10 years. A few years ago she could make about $25 dollars on a good day, in the last few weeks she hasn't been able to make back the $2 in bus fare she spends getting to the bizarre. She says, �I have five grown sons at home sleeping and they have many of their own children to feed. Not one of them has a job or a single sheckle to spend.� It's notable that even with Hamas security guards nearby, most people on the market blame their situation on the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, just as much as they blame Israel.

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