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Friday, March 5, 2021

‘The smuggling keeps the crisis going’

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In the West Bank city of Ramallah, where people remain distrustful and resentful of their Israeli counterparts, vendors push their goods in back alleys along dirt paths crowded with elderly pedestrians. In a lawless area called Beit Hanoun, on the border of Gaza, scavengers sell bags filled with human excrement on hillsides. So it is no wonder that the makeshift hand sanitizer and mosquito repellent made in Tulkarm sits on the shelves of a cement house, and nearly half of the goods — snack foods, flour, chili — are made of smuggled charcoal from Gaza.

“The smuggling keeps the crisis going,” said Zaki Omar, a veteran farmer, in Tulkarm. The place is once again struggling to repair a devastating drought, and hours after his summer wheat crop was stowed in a large, unfinished field, high winds blew water into the ground, washing away the crops. Palestinians who earn meager salaries, as Omar does, have to suck up this income to feed their families. “The president of Israel came to Ramallah and told them they need to pay salaries,” he said. “We don’t have any jobs.”

Israelis have also gotten caught up in this crisis. Across the West Bank, small agricultural villages are starved of crops, said Josef Boudnal, who teaches soil science at Birzeit University in Ramallah. The farmers, from nearby lands, send their water to the area in Gaza, said Hussein Fadur al-Baghly, a professor who teaches agriculture at Birzeit. When the pipes in Gaza crumbled under the weight of sand and gravel, it made it harder to control disease outbreaks and spread fungus — and shortages are hurting Palestinian efforts to develop economic potential in agriculture.

Israeli subsidies for Israeli settlements also have hurt Palestinians in the short term, exacerbating tensions in their shared society. On Wednesday, the Palestinians got a dose of bad news.

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