Gaza’s protracted blockade has resulted in the near total collapse of the private sector. At least 95 percent of Gaza’s industrial establishments (3,750 enterprises) were either forced to close or were destroyed over the past four years, resulting in a loss of between 100,000 and 120,000 jobs. The remaining 5 percent operate at 20-50 percent of their capacity. The vast restrictions on trade have also contributed to the continued erosion of Gaza’s agricultural sector, which was exacerbated by the destruction of 5,000 acres of agricultural land and 305 agricultural wells during the war. These losses also include the destruction of 140,965 olive trees, 136,217 citrus trees, 22,745 fruit trees, 10,365 date trees and 8,822 other trees.
Lands previously irrigated are now dry, while effluent from sewage seeps into the groundwater and the sea, making much of the land unusable. Many attempts by Gazan farmers to replant over the past year have failed because of the depletion and contamination of the water and the high level of nitrates in the soil. Gaza’s agricultural sector has been further undermined by the buffer zone imposed by Israel on Gaza’s northern and eastern perimeters (and by Egypt on Gaza’s southern border), which contains some of the Strip’s most fertile land. The zone is officially 300 meters wide and 55 kilometers long, but according to the UN, farmers entering within 1,000 meters of the border have sometimes been fired upon by the IDF. Approximately 30-40 percent of Gaza’s total agricultural land is contained in the buffer zone. This has effectively forced the collapse of Gaza’s agricultural sector.
These profound distortions in Gaza’s economy and society will–even under the best of conditions–take decades to reverse. The economy is now largely dependent on public-sector employment, relief aid and smuggling, illustrating the growing informalization of the economy. Even before the war, the World Bank had already observed a redistribution of wealth from the formal private sector toward black market operators.