New Gaza factory, jobs destroyed in Israeli attack

What remains of a plastics factory after it was bombed by Israel earlier this week. (Rami Almeghari)

“I still cannot believe my eyes as I see the machines of our new factory, scattered to all corners,” said Rabah al-Hatto as he surveyed the rubble of his recently-established plastic water tank factory in northeast Gaza, which was bombed by Israeli warplanes early yesterday. “What have I and the twenty workers here done to find ourselves jobless?” al-Hatto told The Electronic Intifada.

The factory was due to start distributing its products in the local market in two weeks. “I am completely shocked,” the trim-bearded al-Hatto said. “I never imagined that the factory in which I and my partners invested all our money and energy, would become rubble.” As he spoke, al-Hatto was surrounded by workers, friends, reporters and a field worker from a human rights group.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon, we left the factory to go home. Just before 1am on Wednesday morning I heard Israeli warplanes bombing the area, but I did not imagine it was the factory. Later in the morning, I came to work to find our machines and the ceiling torn apart,” Bashar al-Wehaidi, a technician in the factory, told The Electronic Intifada. “Everything in this 1,200 square meter building was hit.”

Israeli air strikes early Wednesday hit a number of sites in northern Gaza, injuring eight persons, according to medical sources. Three men, three women and two children were hit by debris and shrapnel that struck area homes. The Israeli attacks also destroyed a medical storage building and damaged a school.

Near to where owner Rabah al-Hatto was seated on a chair at his factory site, there was a large truck badly damaged by the Israeli bombing and a heap of aluminum and iron bars on the ground.

“Please look! Please look! A modern truck has been struck before it even traveled the streets of Gaza to distribute our products. Why?” al-Hatto asked. Commenting on Israeli claims that the attack was in retaliation for several rockets fired from Gaza at Israel, al-Hatto said, “Oh my God! What kind of a response is this!”

Now in his early forties, al-Hatto told The Electronic Intifada the story behind his factory. “A year ago, my brother, others partners and I decided to build this factory,” he said. “I used to work as a steelworker, but with the lack of steel due to the Israeli blockade, I decided to invest all my savings in manufacturing plastic water tanks.”

Al-Hatto estimates the losses to him and his partners from the Israeli attack to be $300,000, as well as the incomes for the twenty now jobless workers and their families.

Bashar al-Wehaidi, the now unemployed technician, said that the attack was a complete injustice by Israel. “We have been working tirelessly over the past year in order for this important facility to see the light. May God compensate us such a great loss,” he said.

In the vicinity of the factory, which is located in the al-Qerem neighborhood in the northeast of the Gaza Strip, there are a number of other facilities hit in the Israeli attack. Among them are a large medical storage building, a primary school for 600 students, as well private homes. The school’s ceiling and windows were damaged, forcing the administration to suspend classes until further notice.

According to the Gaza-based health ministry, the al-Qerem medical storage facility was hit by a missile fired from an F-16 fighter jet, causing enormous damage.

“The attack on this store constitutes a flagrant Israeli occupation violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian persons in time of war, as well as other relevant world health conventions,” Dr. Munir al-Bursh, chief of Gaza’s medical stores with the Gaza health ministry, told The Electronic Intifada at his office in Gaza City on Wednesday.

The bombed facility is one of nine storage sites run by the Gaza health ministry according to al-Bursh, who estimates the losses from the Israeli attack at $400,000.

“This is a great loss, in light of the four-year-long Israeli blockade,” Dr. al-Bursh said. “Recently we have listed 183 drugs that our stores are lacking as Israel continues to delay deliveries through the crossings into Gaza.”

Israeli army sources said on Wednesday that their latest air strikes on Gaza were in response to five homemade rockets that landed in southern Israel causing no injuries and minor property damage.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.