It is just a few days until the completion of the project to rebuild factories in the Gaza Strip destroyed by airstrikes during the 2021 Israeli-Palestinian cross-border conflict. The project is funded by PADICO Holding, a West Bank-based Palestinian limited public shareholding company that is responsible for the development of the Gaza Industrial Zone.
The Gaza Industrial Zone is located in eastern Gaza and comprises a total area of 486,000 square meters. It provides investors with ready-made warehouses or open plots of land equipped with the necessary infrastructure.
In the May 2021 escalation of the conflict between Israel and Gaza, the Gaza Industrial Zone was directly hit by Israeli airstrikes, which led to the complete destruction of 10 double facilities, in addition to partially damaging eight factories, Fareed Alqeeq, a member of the Board of Directors of PIDCO, a subsidiary of PADICO Holding, said.
About eight months ago, he said, “we contracted with the Al-Bayan Contracting Company in order to start the reconstruction of the completely destroyed facilities in the presence of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of PADICO Mr. Bashar Masri.”
Masri arrived in the Gaza Strip last week in order to inaugurate six new facilities and hand them over to the new investors, while the other four facilities are expected to be delivered within the coming days, Alqeeq said.
With a budget exceeding $1 million, PADICO built new structures with the highest standards and technologies, according to Alqeeq, who said that: “We tried to build facilities that are compatible with sustainability factors in terms of energy saving, insulation, lighting and ventilation, in addition to taking into account a better level of finishing.” This is what attracted new investors to the industrial zone.
The number of companies investing in the Gaza Industrial Zone, located east of Gaza City, has reached 71, including 55 industrial establishments, with an investment of approximately $890 million.
Hazem Al-Aklouk is the director of Al-Eshara Electrical Systems Company, which recently opened a new branch in the Gaza Industrial Zone in a move “to develop the work and increase the production,” he said, adding that “we are still in the preparation phase but we are optimistic about this move given the great advantages and the encouraging environment in the Gaza Industrial Zone.”
Alqeeq says that PADICO, motivated by social and national responsibility, adopted the project using its own budget due to the urgent need to speed up the reconstruction process because “if we wait for some external financing to come, this may take ages knowing that industrial establishments are not a priority in the compensation for damages.”
Alqeeq condemned the targeting of the Gaza Industrial Zone and said he holds Israel responsible for this act.
“Gaza Industrial Zone is a border and walled area that has a single entrance, meaning that it is under the eyes of the Israeli occupation. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no justification for bombing factories other than deliberately harming the levers of the Palestinian economy. No doubt, the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for harming an important and vital part of the Palestinian economic sector,” he said.
Some of the factories and large companies that were targeted could not rise again due to the lack of sufficient financial capabilities, while other businesses that depend on simple tools and have a limited production, such as furniture factories, were given suitable spaces within the industrial zone in order to resume their work.
Nehad Al Swafeeri, owner of the Al Swafeeri Furniture Company that was bombed by Israeli jets during the May 2021 conflict, told The Media Line that prior to the airstrikes the Gaza business was “flourishing.”
“We used to export our products to the West Bank and Israel, but then the factory was bombed. It was a shock to me and to more than 35 workers who lost their source of income, which supported their families,” he said.
However, Al Swafeeri added: “We managed to partially resume the work with only 30% of our capacity; hopefully that one day we will thrive and succeed to export again."
Gaza-based economist Samir Abu Mudallala told The Media Line: “If these facilities, which have been reconstructed, return to their production cycle, they will absorb hundreds of unemployed people, and we will have high-quality products. This is positive but unfortunately not enough to bring about a real change in Palestinian economic growth.”
He explained that “the sum of what is exported abroad compared to what we import is very weak, as it does not exceed 20%. For example, hundreds of trucks loaded with goods enter the Strip every month from the Israeli side, while only dozens leave from Gaza.”
For Abu Mudallala, Israel is the one to blame.
“Israel is still suffocating and besieging the Strip and preventing any opportunities for its growth through its control of the crossings and the entry of raw materials. They stop the export from Gaza whenever they want and with zero accountability. This policy of continuous tightening of restrictions has pushed hundreds of businesses to shut during the years of the blockade,” he said.
Israel placed a permanent blockade on Gaza in 2007, following the takeover of the Strip by Hamas. Egypt also has imposed a naval blockade on Gaza.
All of these violations and breaching of global economic agreements certainly call for international intervention to stop Israel and give the Palestinian economy a chance to grow, Abu Mudallala concluded.
The story is written by Sanaa Alswerky and reprinted with permission from The Media Line