Suffering under years of blockade by Israel and Egypt, many Gazans will not be able to afford to buy an animal to celebrate Qurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha).
Ali usually marks the Muslim holiday of Qurban Bayram with his family in the Gaza Strip by sacrificing a sheep, a customary annual ritual for those who can spare the cost. But this year the 49-year-old police officer says he cannot afford to buy an animal for the "feast of the sacrifice" holiday, which begins next week, after the Palestinian Authority halved his salary five months ago. "I have slaughtered a sheep every year... but this year there is no way I can. I am ashamed," said the father of five, who declined to give his last name. Ali said that in March, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cut his monthly salary in half, leaving him with of 1,500 shekels ($431). A sheep costs around $500.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine. In the long-embargoed enclave, the humanitarian situation has grown worse by the day. As part of a growing humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave, scores of Palestinians have long demonstrated against high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip. With poverty rampant and unemployment high, many of its 2 million residents depend on services provided by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The World Bank last year warned that the Gaza economy was in "free fall," calling on Israel and the international community to take immediate action to avoid the "immediate collapse" of the Palestinian territory. According to the bank, unemployment is now over 50 percent and over 70 percent among Gaza's youth.
The median monthly wage in the Strip is around $330, according to the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. The territory's livestock breeders and farmers say they are desperate for customers ahead of the holiday, which commemorates God's testing of Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son. "This year I brought only 40 cows and so far I haven't even sold half of them," said Gaza farmer Mohammad Al-Balawi. He says he normally sells 500 each year to people who may also split the animal's 9,000 ($2,600) shekel price. "I have not seen a year as bad as this in my life," he said.
Many Palestinian Authority employees across Gaza and the West Bank had their salaries slashed in March amid a dispute with Israel over payments it makes to the families of Palestinians in Israeli jails. Israel says the payments fan Palestinian violence, and in February it removed the portion the PA designates for prisoners' families from taxes it transfers monthly to the body under interim peace accords. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept partial transfers, saying the PA is entitled to the entire sum of around 700 million ($197 million) shekels, over half its budget. The mounting fiscal pressures have squeezed the Palestinians' $13 billion economy.