Israel's announcement that it would significantly ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip was cautiously received by local merchants, who believe the state of recession that has dominated the market in recent months will not be changing in the near future.
Nonetheless, there has been no shortage of goods in stores or markets lately, and it seems Gaza smugglers have boosted their activity in the Rafah tunnels, which has contributed to a price drop compared with the same period last year.
The Israeli announcement has had the greatest impact on car dealers and electrical appliance merchants, who say the public is now waiting to see if Israel will uphold its promise and allow the entry of all products over time, which would lead to a significant drop in prices.
Used car dealer Abu Shadi told al-Akhbar newspaper that he has been unsuccessful in selling off all the vehicles he has in store, and said he is currently unwilling to purchase any more used cars.
"Up until a just a few weeks ago, we were happy when someone came to sell us their car, but today, the situation is different. Car owners want to sell, but we are afraid to buy from them because this may lead to a loss," he said.
Since the siege was imposed on the Strip, the Gaza car market has relied on smuggling from Egypt, causing prices to skyrocket. For example, a 2002 Hyundai reached $40,000 at the height of the crisis. According to Abu Shadi, "This car would cost less than $20,000 if Israel would allow cars to enter the Strip."
A similar situation applies to the electronics and household appliances market. Until recently, prices were high, but now, stores are offering the same products at lower prices, as they fear similar or better products may be allowed to enter the Strip via the border crossings.
Electronics salesman Munir told the paper that up until recently, a 50 inch television set in Gaza would be sold for NIS 6,500 (roughly $1,680). Today, such an appliance is on sale for NIS 4,500 (roughly $1,160) and there are still no buyers.
Meanwhile, the Hamas leadership, which has largely benefited from the smugglings, is attempting to persuade the residents that the Israeli announcement that it would relieve the siege is a lie.
Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu called the announcement "dark Israeli propaganda", and political analyst Talal Okal dismissed the Israeli statement as "an attempt to buy time".
Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.