GAZA residents have been shocked and angered over a steep rise in prices.
As the sounds of war quietened with the advent of the first truce between Israel and Hamas since October 7, the markets in the Gaza Strip have been flooded with shoppers, desperate to buy food supplies and winter clothes.
But the cost of these products has skyrocketed, particularly for basic foodstuffs, sparking anger and resentment among shoppers who blame shopkeepers and stallholders for high prices.
Imm Abdullah, who was displaced from her home in the Nassr neighbourhood in Gaza City a month ago, after Israel ordered people in northern Gaza to move south, has been staying at one of the United Nations-run schools in Deir el-Balah with her 12 children and grandchildren.
She said conditions in the school have become desperate with no water and barely any provisions.
‘When the Israelis threw leaflets down at us, I left with my family wearing just my prayer clothes,’ she said.
‘At the school, we barely get food assistance. The other day we got a can of tuna. How am I supposed to sustain my family with that?’
The price distortion of basic food products in the Gaza Strip has led to an inflation of 300 to 2,000 per cent
Prices of basic food products in Gaza have soared since the start of the war.
Imm Abdullah had come to the town’s market to try to buy food and some warmer clothes for herself and her grandchildren, as the weather had turned cold. But after visiting different stalls to look for basic food products her exasperation bubbled over.
‘I don’t believe the merchants when they say the prices are out of their control,’ she said. ‘They can regulate prices and be considerate of the fact that we are going through exceptional times, which is not something they should take advantage of.’
She rattled off a list of products that are now unaffordable: Bottled water, which used to be 2 shekels ($0.50), is now 4 or 5 shekels ($0.80-$1). A carton of eggs is 45 shekels ($12). A kilo of salt, which used to be 1 shekel is now 12 ($3.20), while sugar is 25 shekels ($6.70).
‘It’s so unfair,’ Imm Abdullah said. ‘I can’t take it any more and some days I go sit by the sea and weep because I don’t know how to feed or sustain my family. Sometimes I wish we had stayed in our home and got bombed instead of going through this.’
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip has reached 53 per cent, with one-third (33.7 per cent) of Gaza residents living in extreme poverty.
Approximately 64 per cent of households in Gaza are without enough food, and unemployment is at 47 per cent – one of the highest rates in the world.
Even before October 7, a 17-year Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave had resulted in the loss of $35bn to the Palestinian economy.
‘The latest Israeli aggression has been another nail in the coffin of Gaza’s economy,’ Bakr told Al Jazeera. ‘The direct loss to the private sector has surpassed $3bn, while the indirect losses are more than $1.5bn.’
The agricultural sector, he added, has suffered a direct loss of $300m.
‘This includes the uprooting and bulldozing of fruitful trees in the agricultural lands in the north and east near the Israeli fence, which means that it will be another few years before farmers can reap what they sow,’ he explained.
‘We are talking about a total paralysis of economic activity in Gaza. There are 65,000 economic facilities – ranging from the agricultural to the service industries – in the private sector which have been either destroyed or stopped working because of the war. This has resulted in a huge loss of jobs, which in turn leads to a complete lack of food security.’
The Gaza Strip, he added, would need 1,000 to 1,500 trucks a day to deliver the needs of the population of 2.3 million.
The main reason for the price rises, he said, is the closure of the border crossings, which has led to wholesale merchants selling products to shopkeepers at much higher prices.