BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel has granted thousands of Palestinians permits to enter Israel for the holy month of Ramadan, drawing shoppers away from West Bank markets, a Palestinian official said Thursday.
Palestinian youths were granted permits to enter Israel from Sunday to Thursday, but not on Fridays or Saturdays, even though worshipers seek to pray in Jerusalem on Fridays during the holy month.
West Bank markets have suffered as Palestinians head to Israel to go shopping.
Jamal Jawabreh, secretary-general of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the Palestinian economy was already suffering from a lack of liquidity, while salaries have dropped and the cost of living has increased.
Jawabreh said Israel was granting Palestinians access on all days except the days of prayer to encourage them to shop in Israel.
He said Israel was trying to counter its own deficit. The Chambers of Commerce has discussed the issue but is unable to stop Israel granting permits, he added.
Economic analyst Yasser Shahine said the permits were directly affecting Palestinian markets, and that Palestinians were buying even basic goods like dairy produce from Israel due to lower prices.
Shahine said the lack of trade rules exacerbated the problem, as Palestinian merchants bought goods from Israel and sold them at a higher price in West Bank markets, rather than trading in local produce.