by Xinhua Staff
GAZA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- For 13 days, stores, factories and businesses totally suspended, while Gaza's economy was badly hurt as Israel's ever escalating large-scale offensive on the coastal enclave continues with aerial bombardment and ground incursion that has led to the death of at least 342 Palestinians since its start earlier this month.
Economists and observers believed that the violent and intensive attacks will eventually kill the suffocating local economy that has been in fact suffering from years of rigid Israeli blockade since 2007.
Israel further tightened the blockade measures while its warplanes and soldiers are carrying out the "Operation Protective Edge" through introducing more restrictions on the movement of goods and people.
The two previous Israeli offensives carried out against the enclave in late 2008 and in 2012, had destroyed around 1,700 economic and industrial establishments in the Gaza Strip, while the current offensive also targeted dozens of factories, according to local businessmen.
Ali Hayek, deputy chairman of Gaza businessmen association, told Xinhua that the two previous wars had nearly eliminated most of region's economic, industrial and commercial complex, adding that the ongoing one unfortunately destroyed the rest.
"It is hard to count now how many factories and other commercial and economical facilities were destroyed in the Gaza Strip because the war is still going on," said Hayek.
For years, the Gaza Strip was suffering from a severely sluggish economy with high levels of poverty and unemployment rates. Yet Israel still bans the imports of various kinds of raw materials used for construction, industry and agriculture.
Nabil Abu Mo'eileq, chairman of Palestinian contractors union, told Xinhua that the current Israeli attacks have wrack havoc on Gaza's infrastructure, water pipes, sewage, telephones lines and power plants, which would be catastrophic for the enclave and people living in it.
"The losses in the sector of housing and construction amounts to 800 million U.S. dollars so far," he said, referring to rights groups' reports, which said that 80 percent of Gaza factories had already stopped before the Israeli offensive started because of their shortage of raw materials.
Israel had also imposed restrictions on Gaza's exports to foreign lands. Gaza Strip has been exporting 100 trucks of goods on a daily basis before the blockade was imposed in 2007. Nowadays, Gaza can export nothing, and the corresponding losses are 50 million dollars per day.
Maher Taba'a, a Gaza economy expert, told Xinhua that the recent Israeli attack has no doubt intensified the economic and commercial crisis there, adding that jobless rates have grown from 40 percent to 44 percent.
"Currently, there is basically no economic and commercial activity in the Gaza except for grocery stores and gas stations," said al-Taba'a.
He stressed that any upcoming ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Gaza Strip should bear in consideration of a full end of the Israeli blockade and the reopening of all the commercial crossing points.