GAZA, (Reuters) – Bank branches across the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip shut their doors on Thursday, saying they did not have enough bank notes in their vaults to operate normally because of an Israeli-led blockade.
“The bank is closed because of the occupation’s ban on cash entry,” signs read at several branches in Gaza City.
Israel said it opened its border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Thursday for the first time in a week to allow in limited amounts of food, medical supplies and fuel.
Israel said it was also allowing foreign journalists to enter for the first time since Nov. 4, when a deadly army raid into the coastal enclave triggered a surge in cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. But it was unclear when Israel would allow cash into the Gaza Strip to replenish currency stocks.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whose Western-backed government is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said earlier this week that there was not enough cash in the Gaza Strip to cover salaries for more than 77,000 government workers there.
Fayyad said 250 million Israeli shekels ($63 million) was needed to pay the salaries but that banks in the Gaza Strip had only 47 million shekels ($12 million).
Israel allowed in food and medical supplies as well as grain shipments through the Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings. It also opened the Nahal Oz border terminal to European Union-funded fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant.
Palestinian officials in Gaza said Thursday’s shipments would do little to alleviate the shortages.
Israel tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip a year ago after Hamas wrested the territory from secular Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.
The International Monetary Fund’s representative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Oussama Kanaan, said Israel and the Palestinian Authority should seek a long-term agreement to allow the regular monthly transfer of Israeli shekels from West Bank banks to branches in Gaza.
Under a shaky six-month-old Egyptian-brokered truce, Israel had started easing the closure. But the Jewish state clamped down again on Nov. 4, increasing hardships for many of the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents.
Palestinians have been using a network of over 2,000 tunnels dug under the Gaza-Egypt border to alleviate the siege, smuggling in hundreds of bulls and sheep ahead of Eid al-Adha, the day of sacrifice due on Dec. 8 when Muslims the world over slaughter animals and feed the poor to seek God’s forgiveness.