Israel closing down Erez industrial zone in Gaza Strip, some 4,000 Palestinians expected to lose job
Israel's Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who also serves as Minister of Industry and Trade, on Tuesday announced his decision to permanently close the Erez Industrial Park located in northern Gaza Strip.
The minister said there were plans to relocate the factories operating at that location to areas in southern Israel.
Olmert explained that following the cabinet decision to adopt the Gaza Strip disengagement plan, coupled with the uncertain security situation at Erez and the "problems" dealing with Palestinian workers, he has decided to relocate the industrial park, which will also bring "badly needed jobs" to southern district towns.
He also cited the irregular permission granted to Palestinian workers employed there, which has placed the businesses in a precarious financial situation. It should be noted that an estimated 4,000 Palestinians were employed by the factories in the area, which was attacked several times by Palestinian militry groups.
According to Olmert, the main beneficiaries of the planned relocation will be Israeli communities in the south, where new plants will be opened.
A recent Palestinian report said that since the outset of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, violations by Israeli authorities of Palestinian workers' right to work have intensified.
These measures had negative consequences for the Palestinian labor force. They led to a drop in the number of employed workers from 88.2% before the Intifada to 60.3% as of February 2004. This means that 27.9% of the total labor force, i.e. 221,943 of 795,497 workers, lost their job opportunities. In consequence, the unemployment rate increased from 11% before the Intifada to 39.7%.
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)