Since July 10, Israel has closed the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Gaza and Israel to movement of all outgoing goods and most incoming goods. The acute shortage in fuel and cooking gas which has occurred as a result has thwarted the functioning of hospitals and other essential services, greatly intensifying the implications of the ongoing electricity crisis in the Strip.
The job market in Gaza has been shattered by years of closure imposed by Israel and unemployment reached a record high of 53.7 percent, even before Israel implemented the latest sanctions at Kerem Shalom. Israel’s control over Gaza’s only official commercial crossing means that the Gaza market is captive in a way that threatens to collapse the economy entirely.
When a Coca Cola bottling factory opened in Gaza in 2016, it was regarded as a rare source of hope for the Strip, promising to boost economic activity and provide over 200 jobs to Gaza residents. But even the world-famous megacorporation is not immune to the realities of Israel’s sanctions at Kerem Shalom. The Coca Cola factory has been shut down for about a month due to a shortage in carbon dioxide, needed to make the fizzy drink.
A local competitor, Mecca Cola, which has manufactured carbonated beverages and mineral water since 2006, has also been shut down for a month or so due to the unavailability of CO2 gas, normally sourced from Israel, as well as a shortage of bottles, caps, and cartons, which are imported from Turkey and Jordan and now forbidden to enter the Strip via Kerem Shalom. The supplies required for the companies to renew production are stuck in Israel, along with countless other commodities belonging to Gaza business owners. Factory owners have been forced to spend thousands of shekels every day on storage, further compounding their extensive financial losses.
Ordinarily, Mecca Cola produces 3,000 boxes of bottled beverages per day. The factory has sold whatever stock it had stored and has been forced to halt production; factory employees are left in the lurch, and 400 others, employed in the company’s supply and marketing chains, have also been impacted directly.
So, who profits when local production grinds to a halt? Manufacturers and suppliers from outside Gaza, mostly from Israel. Demand still exists, even if the goods themselves are significantly more expensive than those produced locally. Israel’s sanctions at Kerem Shalom have stifled local production and created near complete dependence on goods entering from Israel. What does it have to do with security considerations? Absolutely nothing.
Israel’s closing of Kerem Shalom Crossing is an illegal, punitive measure against the civilian population in Gaza as a whole, a disgraceful regression to the worst days of ‘economic warfare’ on Gaza’s residents, which must be ended immediately.