- Title: Blockaded Gaza looks wryly on as world isolates itself
- Date: 18th March 2020
- Summary: GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 16, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PALESTINIAN ENTREPRENEURS AT GAZA SKY GEEKS INCUBATOR VARIOUS OF COMPUTER ENGINEER, ANGHAM ABU ABED, WORKING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) COMPUTER ENGINEER, ANGHAM ABU ABED, SAYING: "Today and for the first time the whole world is forced to work from home because of the coronavirus, (while) we in the Gaza Strip have been doing this for years, because of the siege imposed on us." VARIOUS OF ABU ABED WORKING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ACADEMY PROGRAM MANAGER AT SKY GEEKS, SAED HABIB, SAYING "We are in a position to understand what the world is going through now. People are unable to travel, unable to work, unable to go out of their homes. They are not able to go to malls to buy food supplies. These are all circumstances we have been living through in Gaza for the last 13 years." GAZA SKY GEEKS SIGN (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ACADEMY PROGRAM MANAGER AT SKY GEEKS, SAED HABIB, SAYING: "We hope that the world can sympathize with Gazans, and we in Gaza hope that all people who suffer from the (coronavirus) disease will recover soon, and that the disease can be stopped soon and a vaccine will be found." GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 17, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF OWNER OF SHARAF METAL AND ELECTRICAL INDUSTRIES, YOUSSEF SHARAF, LOOKING AT HIS EMPTY METAL FACTORY GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 16, 2020) (REUTERS) SHARAF WALKING IN HIS FACTORY SHARAF EXAMINING OLD MACHINE GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 17, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) OWNER OF SHARAF METAL AND ELECTRICAL INDUSTRIES, YOUSSEF SHARAF, SAYING: "After 2006 the situation started to deteriorate here. Look at the rust. Since 2006 this machine is not working, we used to have 70 but they left now. We have only one worker and our situation is moving from bad to worse, we are in a very tough situation." GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 16, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SHARAF AND WORKER AT FACTORY VARIOUS OF WORKER PUTTING METAL IN FIRE METAL IN FIRE MACHINE MAKING METAL GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 17, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SHARAF LOOKING DOWN AT HIS EMPTY METAL FACTORY (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) OWNER OF SHARAF METAL & ELECTRICAL INDUSTRIES, YOUSSEF SHARAF, SAYING: "I am not working, there is nothing, no one is helping us at all. We live under siege, we can't get material into (Gaza), we don't have electricity, there is no stable line, it is a tough situation. What can I say?." GAZA CITY, GAZA (MARCH 16, 2020) (REUTERS) VEHICLES DRIVING IN STREET VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WALKING IN MARKET
- Embargoed: 1st April 2020 09:29
- Keywords: Gaza Israel Palestinians coronavirus lockdown
- Location: GAZA CITY, GAZA/ INTERNET
- City: GAZA CITY, GAZA/ INTERNET
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Health/Medicine,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA002C5KUZPJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: "Dear world, how is the lockdown? Gaza."
A sly dig at the international community, this is just one among a torrent of social media posts that has emerged from the blockaded Gaza Strip in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sight of a world locking itself down seems to have unleashed a wellspring of emotions in Gaza, from sardonic political commentary to schadenfreude, emerging from Palestinian denizens of the tiny coastal enclave that has for years lived with enforced isolation and confinement.
"Have you got bored with your quarantine, the closure of your crossings, your airports and your trade? We in Gaza have been living this for 14 years," one social media user posted this week.
"Oh world, welcome into our permanent reality," he added.
Gaza, measuring 375 square kilometres (145 square miles) is home to around two million Palestinians, more than half of them refugees.
Along 90% of its land and sea boundaries its access to the outside world is controlled by Israel, and by Egypt on its narrow southern border.
An Israeli-led blockade has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years, amid security concerns following the 2007 takeover of Gaza by the Islamist militant group Hamas, and three subsequent wars which killed thousands of Palestinians and around 100 Israelis.
The irony is not lost on Gazans that the restrictions they chafe against may also have contributed to slowing the entry of coronavirus, with no cases reported thus far in Gaza.
But prolonged closure and isolation have contributed to the crippling of Gaza's economy, with unemployment at 52 percent and poverty levels of over 50 percent.
Standing in his empty metal factory in northern Gaza City, businessman Youssef Sharaf recalled the years when he used to be able to export electric heaters to Israel and the West Bank.
"I had 70 people working here, today I only have one," Sharaf told Reuters. Although the underlying causes of his closure were man-made, he empathised with those facing shutdown because of disease.
"It is tough," he said. "May God be with them."
But in Gaza's small but resilient high-tech sector, the obstacles that stop travel abroad also forced the early adoption of teleconferencing and other practices that world is now catching up with.
At Gaza Sky Geeks, an incubator for young entrepreneurs, computer programmers and web developers work remotely with international firms.
"Because of the years-long blockade on us, Gaza people better understand the current situation in world countries," said Angham Abu Abed, 24, a computer engineer who works with a software company in Britain.
"We hope the blockade on us will end, and we hope the virus will disappear from the world."
(Production: Fadi Shana, Nihad Shana, Wafa Abu Mezied, Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh)
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