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Gloom stalks Gaza as aid and cash crisis worsens

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Apr 14 (Reuters) At the main market in Gaza City, some sellers doze on their vegetable stands. Others call out their prices, but only half-heartedly.

There are few buyers as cuts in foreign aid and Israeli tax transfers to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government bite deeper, especially in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Having swept the Islamic militant group into power in parliamentary elections in January, partly in the hope that living conditions would improve, some Palestinians are asking if it was worth it.

''People ask about prices and then leave. Only a few are buying,'' said fruit seller Munir al-Rifi.

''Nobody has received his salary and employees are in debt.

If this situation continues, chaos will spread.'' Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh earlier this month said the new administration, which took office on March 29, was broke. Officials have said they do not know when March salaries for 140,000 government staff will be paid.

The finance minister yesterday warned of economic collapse within months.

On top of that, internal violence has worsened. Israeli aircraft and artillery have been pounding sites in northern Gaza to stop militants from firing rockets into the Jewish state.

But what hurts many Gazans most is their empty pockets.

Taxis cruising Gaza's streets are empty. Shops and restaurants say business is down.

Supermarket owner Anwar Abu Al-Kass said his revenue had shrunk by half, with government workers buying only basic food and cigarettes -- which they could not pay for in hard cash on the spot anyway.

More Reuters KD DS1248

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