Palestinians in Gaza Strip bid the year 2017 farewell, bringing with them to the new year never-ending crises that continue to be aggravated with the Israeli blockade entering its eleventh year.
Over the past six months, living conditions severely deteriorated in the coastal strip, especially after the Palestinian Authority (PA) imposed a series of sanctions on Gaza to pressure the Hamas movement to accept a national reconciliation.
Figures indicate a decrease in the number of commercial trucks entering Gaza during the last three months to less than 500, instead of over 880 truckloads that were supposed to enter the strip daily. The decrease is due to traders' inability to purchase the people's daily needs as a result of a decline in purchasing power caused by the difficult economic and living conditions, making 2017 the worst in the eleven years of the Israeli siege.
Over the past few days, a number of traders closed their shops in several areas of the strip for a few hours in protest against the deteriorating economic and living conditions.
They called for rescuing the sector and saving it from the harsh living conditions. Most citizens are no longer able to buy the most basic needs.
Mohammed al-Astal, 56, a resident of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, indicated that merchants are losing huge sums of money and cannot benefit from goods that are allowed inside the strip through the Karam Abu Salim crossing, the only commercial crossing.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Astal pointed out that there is a decline in sales met by an increase in taxes imposed by the Customs Department of government of national accord, which further burdens the merchants.
He stressed that Gaza is on the brink of economic, social and social collapse. He pointed out that 2017 was the most distressing year for traders and citizens, most of whom do not receive their salaries, while some receive their wages with major cuts that affect their purchasing power.
Another resident, Hassan al-Halabi, 43, described life in Gaza as "no longer tolerable," especially since the electricity crisis continues to worsen without any signs of a radical solution or at least an improvement.
Halabi revealed that the percentage of poverty in Gaza is increasing, adding that some institutions that supervise temporary work projects, the "unemployment system", also began to reduce their services in Gaza for unknown reasons.
This indicates that the situation is general heading towards even more decline in the new year, he warned.
Another citizen, Oum Mohammed al-Absi, who is in her sixties, described the tragic circumstances of thousands of families living on the "social affairs" allowance that is issued every three months.
She hoped, like all families, to receive the allowance of $500 on time and before the end of the year, but the PA did not issue it amid rumors that it could be postponed until after January 20.
Al-Absi explained that her only source of capital is the allowance she receives every three months, noting that the majority of families receiving the money are living in similar difficult circumstances.
According to the Popular Committee Against Siege (PCAS), 2017 was the most difficult year in terms of humanitarian and economic conditions in light of the ongoing Israeli siege and the consequences of internal division.
PCAS pointed out that 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, unemployment reached 50 percent and that unemployment among young people and graduates was 60 percent.
A quarter of a million workers are still unemployed and 80 percent of Gaza factories are fully or partially closed because of the blockade and attacks, with direct and indirect annual losses estimated at $250 million.
University graduate, Mohammed Abu Nasr, said that his greatest desire is for the crossings to open, allowing him and tens of thousands of young people to immigrate in search for a better future away from the siege and wars.
Despite all these complex conditions in life, people of Gaza hope that the new year will be better.