According to a new report, Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip last month didn’t just target alleged Hamas members; it also targeted the territory’s already fragile economy.
According to Gaza officials, Israeli Defense Forces bombed and shelled Gaza from May 10 to May 21, launching during that period over 1,500 projectiles and destroying more than 2,000 homes, damaging another 17,000. The bombing killed more than 250 people, including 67 children.
However, the continued 11-day shelling of the enclave also destroyed commercial buildings like shops, farms, restaurants, and factories. According to a Wednesday report published by Electronic Intifada, the Israeli bombing destroyed more than 500 enterprises, including 50 factories. Muhammad Abu Jayyab, a Gaza-based economist, estimated that economic losses from the 11-day bombing campaign amounted to $350 million.
An industrial area established in 1996 by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Union was targeted repeatedly during the strikes, having never been previously attacked. Bajess Jaoudat of the Palestinian Industrial Estate and Free Zone Authority estimated losses in the industrial estate alone were $20-25 million. The site employed 1,500 people. “Once we learned that the industrial area was being bombed, we called the civil defense to fight the fires. But, unfortunately, when they arrived, they were targeted, too. Shells were falling right where they worked, which led to more fires and even more damage,” Jaoudat told Electronic Intifada.
Some other institutions hit by the bombing included more than 20 media offices, including al-Jalaa tower, which housed the offices of several international news agencies, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. Israel said it bombed the building because it was supposedly being used by Hamas.
Before the war, unemployment levels reached over 50% and at times was above 80% in Gaza, which has been almost totally cut off from the world since 2006 by an Israeli and Egyptian cordon. More than 2 million people live in Gaza, half of whom are children. Many goods are not allowed to enter or leave, even those used for construction. Food and fuel are rationed by Israeli authorities, only allowing a few hours of electricity each day.
“The bombing of commercial areas is aimed solely at bringing the people in Gaza to their knees and to continue the siege,” said Adib Zineldeen, a shop owner in Al-Rimal district, which was heavily targeted by Israeli bombing. “They targeted the wealthiest residential and commercial areas, which provide livelihoods to thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, who were already making the bare minimum.” In the wake of the bombing campaign, the US offered as much as $75 million for development and economic assistance to the Palestinians. Still, we pledged that none of it would benefit Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and which Israel and the U.S. regard as a terrorist organization. In response, Hamas said it would not accept a cent of international aid and would not allow the offer to divide the Palestinian people.
Solidarity efforts by other Muslim nations, such as Qatar and Iran, have been welcomed. Even before the May campaign, Doha had pledged $360 million in aid to Gaza in January. However, last week, Qatari Assistant Minister Lolwah Al-Khater, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said Doha had pledged another $500 million for rebuilding and repairing more than 45,000 damaged homes in Gaza, most of which remain unfixed from past bombing campaigns by the Israelis.
So far, Israel has not allowed any of this aid to enter Gaza, and Hamas has pledged that if the aid isn’t released by the end of the week, it will resume rocket attacks on Israel. During the 11-day confrontation, Hamas fired more than 4,300 rockets into Israel, most of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. However, 13 Israelis, two of whom were children, were killed by the bombardment, and more than 200 were injured.