Gazan businessmen staged a protest at a crossing point Monday over what they said was the mass cancellation of travel permits by Israel, which they blamed for suffocating trade.
Palestinians accuse the Jewish state of having scrapped hundreds of travel documents allowing them to enter Israel and the West Bank as well as other countries for trade.
The permits are crucial to the economy of the impoverished Gaza Strip, which some international official say is on the brink of collapse after 10-years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades, imposed following the take over of the enclave by Hamas, considered a terror group by Israel and most Western governments.
Israel, which allows hundreds of trucks into the Strip each day, says the blockade, which restricts shipments on certain items, is necessary to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from rebuilding its military infrastructure, including rockets and a network of tunnels.
COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body responsible for implementing government policies in the Palestinian territories, refused to comment on Monday.
But an Israeli official confirmed to AFP that the number of permits had declined.
“There are currently 1,600 trading permits, compared to 2,800 in the same period in 2015,” the official said.
Walid al-Hosary, chairman of the Gaza chamber of commerce, said that “more than 1,500 permits and more than 160 authorization cards for merchants and businessmen have been withdrawn.”
He told the demonstrators at the Erez Crossing in the north of the Strip that Israel had cited “security reasons,” for the drop in permits.
He claimed raw goods necessary for industry were not being let into the Palestinian enclave, home to some 1.9 million Palestinians.
Israel prevents a long list of materials to enter the Strip it says are used or can be used by Hamas for military purposes, though in recent years it has shortened that list and made efforts to put “forbidden” materials straight into the hands of international aid groups working in Gaza.