BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The fragile Palestinian economy suffered serious losses in the past three weeks as Israeli custom officials at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan launched a strike, forcing imports and exports to a near standstill in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Hebron Muhammad Ghazi al-Hirbawi told Ma’an that Israeli custom officials started the general strike 20 days ago to demand a salary increase for what they called a “risky job.”
The strike has had a disastrous effect on the Palestinian economy, al-Hirbawi said, saying that “several factories have suspended work, particularly plastic factories, due to lack of raw materials.”
Al-Hirbawi added that the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce has contacted both Palestinian and Israeli officials to try and work out a solution to an issue that has “exhausted the Palestinian economy.”
A solution was expected to be reached in the coming few days, according to al-Hirbawi.
About 150 truckloads of goods used to cross the Allenby Bridge into the West Bank every day, al-Hirbawi explained, but since the strike only 10 truckloads have entered the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Palestinian exports via Allenby Bridge have dropped by almost 90 percent, he said.
Jordan is a major destination for Palestinian products from the West Bank, including all Palestinian exports to foreign countries necessitating passage through Jordan.
The stone and marble industry has particularly been hit hard, as the industry has sustained losses reaching up to 25 million shekels ($6,582,412) since the start of the strike, according to the Chairman of the general union of stone and marble producers Samih Thawabta.
Thawabta highlighted that the industry had also sustained “indirect” losses, such as losing credibility and contracts worth hundreds of millions of shekels, which the Palestinian businessmen had already signed with foreign companies.