GAZA, (Reuters) – Palestinian guards shot and wounded four farm labourers protesting on Monday against a plan to cut the number of days they can work at a former Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, witnesses and medics said.
Greenhouses left by the settlers are central to Palestinian plans for boosting Gaza”s dismal economy following Israel”s withdrawal in September after 38 years of occupation.
Workers cut off water supplies to the greenhouses at the former settlement of Netzer Hazani to protest at plans by the Palestinian Authority owned company to halve the number of days they can work at a daily wage of 60 Israeli shekels ($13).
"We did this in a sign of protest, a peaceful protest, but guards opened fire," said one of the workers.
Officials of the Palestine Economic Development Company (PEDC) said they had launched an investigation.
"We regret what happened but all of us should prevent anyone from sabotaging a national project," Amid Al-Masri, executive director of the project, told Reuters. He said workers attacked an engineer and hijacked a vehicle.
Masri said over 3,000 workers were now employed, at higher wages than the settlements used to pay, and that it was no longer necessary to employ the full workforce seven days a week because the greenhouses are now up and running.
Palestinian officials said $33 million had been earmarked to develop the greenhouses, where settlers built a thriving industry exporting organic vegetables and house plants, particularly to Europe.
The first load of peppers was shipped for Israeli markets this month. A second shipment of peppers, tomatoes and strawberries being sent on Monday.
The greenhouses are seen as an important source of employment for the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians.