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Gazans recycle waste metal into profits in Israel trade

China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-02 09:24
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Workers sort metal waste at a factory in the al-Zaitoun area of Gaza City on Feb 20. RIZEK ABDELJAWAD/XINHUA

GAZA, Middle East-Five Palestinian workers from Gaza get together eight hours each day to press metal waste that will be exported to Israel after a 15-year ban.

Two workers are responsible for sorting the scrap metal and old cars, two press the metal waste, and another one transfers the crushed material to a big truck that will later head to Israel through the Israeli-controlled commercial crossing point of Kerem Shalom.

"Now it seems like a small production, but it used to be relatively big some 15 years ago," said Mazen Ayyad, the factory owner. His place once acted as a "beehive" that employed dozens of Palestinians on a daily basis.

Then things started to change. In the summer of 2007, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, ousting the officials of rival group Fatah. As a result, Israel imposed a tight blockade over the entire territory for security reasons.

Ayyad's factory, located in the al-Zaitoun neighborhood in the east of Gaza, had to stop its operations. So did dozens of other factories.

The consequence was catastrophic, Ayyad recalled.

"Back in the day, I was forced to fire all my workers who then became unemployed and unable to keep their families afloat. My business has incurred heavy losses and it will take many years to bring me to the situation where I was before," the 55-year-old father of three said.

During the years the factories were shut, 200,000 tons of metal waste accumulated in Gaza, causing significant damage to the strip's environment, a Palestinian committee said.

As Israel seems to be changing its policy, allowing Gazans to develop some industries that will not harm Israeli security, the future looks bright for Ayyad and many other business owners as well as their employees.

Right now, the Israeli authorities' decision to allow metal waste has secured jobs for roughly 6,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel will reportedly permit 1,000 tons of such exports per week. Each ton is sold for $200 to $280, depending on its type and quality.

Ahmed Yasser, a metal worker at Ayyad's factory, is happy about the Israeli decision. Just like many other Palestinians, he had lost his job in 2007. The only breadwinner of his family said he breathed a sigh of relief when he was told to return to work, where he earns $15 a day. Although the salary is not high, he is thankful to have the possibility to put food on the table.

According to official Palestinian statistics and the World Bank, the blockaded coastal enclave suffers from high rates of unemployment that reached 46 percent in early 2020.

The factories manage operations during the day to avoid running electricity generators that would cost them a lot.

They hope Israel will allow all factories to resume operations soon and end its strict measures imposed on the Gaza Strip.


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