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In search of new funds, Hamas raises taxes in poor Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip ( Associated Press) — Gaza’s Hamas rulers imposed a slew of new taxes on imported clothing and office supplies just ahead of the new school year, prompting limited but rare protests in the impoverished coastal strip.

The terrorist group’s move comes at a time when Gaza’s 2.3 million people are suffering not only from a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade, but also a new surge in prices due to global supply-chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. also suffer from ,

“It’s a wrong, repressive decision that destroys the national economy,” said Nahed al-Sawada, a clothing importer from China and Turkey.

A list from the Ministry of Economy includes planned taxes on items such as packaged nuts, along with an import duty of 2,000 shekels (about $600) per ton. In the past, nuts were imported tax free. Tariffs on a ton of toilet paper increased from $90 to $580. The taxes are due to come into effect from August 1.

The list also includes a tax of about $3 on a pair of jeans and a $230 tax on a ton of plastic folders used to store papers. The demand for these items increases before the school year.

A new pair of jeans sells for $3 to $10, and the new tax would create an unfair burden on struggling consumers, said Imad Abdelhadi, a representative of Gaza’s clothing merchants union.

In an area plagued by widespread poverty and unemployment near 50%, he said many Gazans are already looking for used clothing. He said the new taxes would “deprive them of the ability to buy.”

Gaza’s economy has been severely affected by the Israeli-Egyptian blockade when Hamas seized power in 2007. Israel says a blockade is needed to stop Hamas from making weapons, but critics say the sanctions, which include strict limits on exports, amount to collective punishment. ,

The government of Hamas is not internationally recognized and considers Israel and its Western allies the group, which opposes the existence of Israel and in the past carried out deadly suicide bombings against Israel, a terrorist organization.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the Hamas takeover, further straining the region’s infrastructure. Electricity is short, tap water is unfit for drinking and the health care system is in shambles.

With its massive spending on its military wing, as well as supporting thousands of civil servants, it is no surprise that Hamas is looking for new sources of revenue. Still, the timing is questionable, coming at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has driven up consumer prices around the world.

Hamas officials say the new taxes are meant to protect local industries. But experts and business people challenge this argument, as the much-needed raw material is now being taxed.

Mohamed Abu Zayeb, an economist, said the taxes had failed to protect local manufacturers because the government still taxes raw materials and production lines.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Economy did not return a request for comment.

Hamas does not release figures on its funding resources or budget.But the latest moves are part of a series of taxes targeting a wide variety of sectors, from street vendors to restaurants selling hot drinks, home construction and cars.

The government provides few services in return, and most aid and relief projects are covered by the international community., This money helps Hamas operate a government and a powerful armed wing.

Protests against Hamas are rare And often met by force. But earlier this month, about two dozen members of the Textile Traders Association expressed their dismay to the public. They stood inside their union building in Gaza City, holding new pairs of jeans that still had price tags in the air for about half an hour.

Two days later, traders gathered outside the offices of Hamas lawmakers. Police stopped the media from filming and ordered the protest to stop after union representatives were allowed to speak to MPs. The strike ended peacefully.

“The lawmakers accepted that the taxes were high, and said they would look into it,” union representative Abdelhadi said.

But he said he did not expect a positive result. “By these decisions, they have issued the death penalty against the industry.”

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