Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine

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Palestinian Stores In Hebron Reopen After 21 Year Closure Imposed By Israeli OccupationForces


The city of Hebron celebrated on Monday the reopening of dozens of stores in Hebron old city after Israel closed them under a military order 21 years ago.

Hebron municipality held a press conference in Sahla Street to announce their achievement in gaining an Israeli permit to reopen dozens of trade stores in a street closed after the Ibrahim Mosque massacre in 1994.

Head of Hebron municipality Dawed a-Za’ateri said: “We are present now in Sahla trading street which was closed down by Israeli authorities 21 years ago. We submitted a number of requests to reduce the suffering of our people, and our communication with a number of international parties placed pressure on the Israeli government. So, today we restore life to Sahla Street in the Old City after our success in forcing a decision from the occupation to reopen these stores”.

A-Za’ateri emphasized the importance of solidarity between citizens and friends of the trading shops in Sahla area, as well as the importance of their presence in this area, and the restoration of normal life to the street. He said: “We have succeeded in reopening these stores after a very protracted closure. This is the first step towards opening more closed areas, including Martyr Street, which was also closed down by the occupation more than 20 years ago”.

A-Za’ateri noted the necessity of exploiting the month of Ramadan in order to increase support for the Old City residents’ resistance and to encourage trade activity to restore normal life as it was before the closures, which were imposed by the Israeli authorities. He said: “The Old City of Hebron is ready to provide many forms of logistical support to the area’s residents”.

He thanked the Palestinian leadership for their persistent efforts and continued cooperation with the Hebron municipality in the realization of a good standard of living for Palestinian citizens, and for their help with facilities. He also thanked the international parties that contributed to the pressure in the Israeli government with the aim of reopening these trading stores in Sahla neighbourhood.

For their part, the residents of Hebron municipality demanded from PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership that the Shari’a court in Sahla neighbourhood remain there, after plans were made during the last few days to move it to Bab a-Zawiya neighbourhood in Hebron city. They told the official agency that the presence of the court in Sahla area had contributed to strengthening their resistance and their protection of the area from the occupation authorities.

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Palestine Economy To Grow By 8.1% In 2015

Via Mubasher

According to Economic Forecasts Report 2015 issued by the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), the Palestinian economy has witnessed further deterioration, especially in the second half of 2014.
Palestine’s real growth rate slashed by 2.7% accompanied by a drop in real per capita income by around 5.5%, according to PMA report.
PMA estimates show an increase in unemployment rates to approximately 29.0% of labor force in 2014, compared to 23.4% in 2013. The inflation rate also rose to 2.0% in 2014 compared to 1.7% in 2013.
In addition, PMA expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 2.9% in 2015 compared to 2014, thus pushing real per capita income up by 0.2% for the same comparison period.
Total final consumption is expected to rise by approximately 6.8%. Total investment will also grow by around 15.5% in 2015, according to PMA forecasts.Palestinian exports are anticipated to register an increase by around 22.7 % and imports by 22.4% in 2015 when compared to 2014.
Furthermore, unemployment is projected to decline to around 27% of labor force, in light of the expected 2015 growth. The general price level is also expected to be around the levels of past years at 1.8% in 2015 against 2.0% in 2014.
The Palestinian economy is expected to grow by 8.1% in 2015 in case the political situation improves and the flow of grants remains constant and regular, according to PMA.On the other hand, PMA expects a retraction in real growth by 3.9% in 2015 compared to 2014, if political and security conditions witness a sharp deterioration. Real GDP per capita is also projected to decline by 6.7%.

As a result, unemployment rates will be pushed up to around 31% of labor force in 2015.

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Israeli Occupation Blocks Shipment From Gaza to West Bank

via Al Akhbar

The Israeli authorities have blocked a shipment of produce from besieged Gaza Strip bound for the occupied West Bank – the first in seven years – despite earlier promises to allow it through, a Palestinian official has said.

“Trucks carrying 14 tons of agricultural produce to the West Bank were forced to return to Gaza, even though Israel had approved the crossing earlier,” Tahseen al-Saqqa, director of crossings at the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

“The Israeli authorities gave no reasons for the move,” he added.

If successful, the shipment – which included seven tons of sweet potatoes and as many tons of dates – would have been the first such consignment from Gaza to the West Bank since 2007, when Israeli tightened its blockade on the coastal enclave.

“Gaza exports less than 2 percent of its local production,” al-Saqqa said, stressing the importance of an active export sector to the strip’s economic recovery.

It also called on the self-proclaimed Zionist state to reopen its border crossings with Gaza to commercial traffic.

Palestinian resistance faction Hamas also called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, to support calls for lifting Israel’s years-long blockade of the coastal strip “to redeem himself for whitewashing Israeli massacres.”

“Ban Ki-moon helped cover up Israel’s massacre of Palestinians in the southern city of Rafah during Israel’s recent war [on Gaza],” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, said in a Tuesday statement.

“We call on [Ban] to redeem himself by… [working towards] the total lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip,” Abu Zuhri said.

He further called on the UN chief to “stop employing double standards and assume responsibility for Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression.”

Ban arrived in Gaza earlier Tuesday through the Erez border crossing with Israel for a one-day visit in order to deliver an address to the Palestinian people.

The visit comes two days after he attended an international donor conference in Cairo devoted to the reconstruction of the war-battered enclave.

During Israel’s devastating seven-week Gaza offensive in July and August, Ban had accused Hamas of breaching a humanitarian cease-fire following reports that Israeli soldiers had gone missing during the truce.

Hamas, for its part, rejected Ban’s allegations.

For seven weeks this summer, Israel pummeled the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of halting rocket fire from the Palestinian territory.

The onslaught left more than 2,150 Palestinians dead – 70% them civilians – and 11,000 injured, while leaving much of the strip’s critical infrastructure in ruins.

Over the same period, at least 73 Israelis – 68 soldiers and five civilians – were killed by Palestinian fighters or rocket fire.

Blockaded by Israel – by air, land and sea – since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh – the Rafah crossing – is controlled by Egypt, which keeps it tightly sealed for the most part.

Israel sealed four of its commercial crossings with Gaza in June 2007 after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas wrested control of the strip from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

As it currently stands, the Israeli authorities allow the Kerem Shalom crossing – which links Gaza to both Israel and Egypt – to operate for commercial purposes.

The Gaza-Israel Erez crossing, meanwhile, is generally devoted to the movement of individuals between the blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.


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World Bank: Palestine Private Sector Hostage to Israeli Restrictions

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian private sector is hostage to instability and Israel’s restrictions on movement, access and trade in the occupied territories, according to a new World Bank report.

The report, Investment Climate Assessment: Fragmentation and Uncertainty, which was released Thursday, blames Israel’s restrictions and the Mideast conflict for holding Palestinian enterprises back.

“An active private sector is much needed to fuel economic and social progress in the Palestinian territories already faced with declining income and increasing unemployment,” said Steen Jorgensen, World Bank country director for West Bank and Gaza.

“Allowing mobility and access to resources is crucial to building investor confidence and developing industry and high value-added service sectors that would support a prosperous Palestinian economy and protect against future violence.”

The World Bank says its new report provides “empirical evidence” that instability, military rule, violence, political division, and lack of free movement and access to resources and markets are Palestine’s key obstacles to growth.

“The multiple layers of restrictions and complex rules imposed by Israeli authorities govern business activities. The severe fragmentation of the Palestinian markets, turned into ‘micro-climates’ has led to different conditions and constraints depending on the location within the Palestinian territories,” the report said.

It added: “The business activities are burdened with additional time, financial resources, and capacity to navigate.”

The World Bank says Israel’s control of multiple forms of movement impede business and trade, while in Gaza, exports are almost all banned and when they are permitted, they are significantly delayed.

It said data from Palestinian firms surveyed twice over the last decade show no significant growth in capital investment or employment.

PA should do more

While the report said Israel’s restrictions were primarily to blame, it also said the Palestinian Authority needed to do more in the meantime to improve the situation.

The primary recommendation for the PA was for unified legislation between the West Bank and Gaza, which are controlled by separate parties despite a months-old reconciliation deal.

The report points out a few positive signs such as the growing IT and pharmaceutical sectors. It also describes petty corruption as low and the financial sector as stable.

“The report paints a gloomy situation of the investment climate but the productivity data and emergence of high-value sectors such as pharmaceuticals and information technology demonstrate the potential for growth that builds on the Palestinian entrepreneurial spirit,” said Nabila Assaf, the lead author of the report.

“Although the political instability is the binding constraint to investment and business, it is crucial to identify ways of improving aspects of the business climate in the short term.”