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PA: Israel prohibits Gaza Strip gold imports, exports

March 29, 2016 6:25 P.M. (Updated: June 8, 2016 11:20 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Israeli authorities on Tuesday decided to prohibit imports and exports of gold to and from the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said.

Nathmi Muhanna, director of the Palestinian Authority’s borders and crossings department, told Ma'an that Israeli authorities notified his department that the importation and exportation of gold was suspended in the besieged Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson for the union of gold merchants in Gaza, Abu Bilal Atwah, told Ma'an the ban would have a very negative impact on merchants and jewelry manufacturers in the beleaguered Palestinian coastal enclave.

Both Atwah and Muhanna said that up until last month, the gold trade had been prohibited in Gaza by Israel ever since Hamas movement came to power in 2006, but about a month ago, that decision was reversed.

Gold merchants and jewelry manufacturers had "pinned their hopes on the decision to allow gold imports and exports," Atwah said, as they expected Hamas' decision would open up job opportunities in the Gaza Strip after nearly nine years of a crippling Israeli siege.

Atwah said Israel agreed a month ago to allow exports of gold bars from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and imports of manufactured gold jewelry from the West Bank.

Neither Atwah nor Muhanna mentioned how the gold bars entered Gaza in the first place, but Palestinians in Gaza have relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border since 2007, when Israel imposed its military blockade, to bring in goods into the enclave.

Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.

The UN has warned that unless current trends are altered, Gaza could become uninhabitable for residents in just five years.

"The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020," the UN's development agency said last year.
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