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  • An illegal Israeli-led blockade has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years.

    An illegal Israeli-led blockade has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 March 2020

Prolonged closure and isolation have contributed to the crippling of Gaza’s economy, with unemployment at 52 percent and poverty levels of over 50 percent.

A sly dig at the international community, this is just one among a torrent of social media posts that have emerged from the blockaded Gaza Strip in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The world lockdown has sparked a surge of bitter feelings on social media from Palestinians in the tiny coastal enclave who has for years lived with enforced isolation and confinement.

“Have you got bored with your quarantine, the closure of your crossings, your airports and your trade? We in Gaza have been living this for 14 years,” one social media user posted this week.

“Oh world, welcome into our permanent reality,” he added.

Other social users highlighted that the lockdown in developed countries had very little to do with Gaza or Kashmir, where people are living in inhumane conditions.

Gaza, measuring 375 square kilometers is home to around two million Palestinians, more than half of them refugees.

Along 90 percent of its land and sea boundaries its access to the outside world is controlled by Israel, and by Egypt on its narrow southern border.

An illegal Israeli-led blockade has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods for years, while three wars killed thousands of Palestinians - and around 100 Israelis.

The irony is not lost on Gazans that the restrictions they chafe against may also have contributed to slowing the entry of coronavirus, with no cases reported thus far in Gaza.

Standing in his empty metal factory in northern Gaza City, businessman Youssef Sharaf recalled the years when he used to be able to export electric heaters to Israel and the West Bank.

“I had 70 people working here, today I only have one,” Sharaf told Reuters. Although the underlying causes of his closure were man-made, he empathized with those facing shutdown because of disease.

“It is tough,” he said. “May God be with them.”

But in Gaza’s small but resilient high-tech sector, the obstacles that stop travel abroad also forced the early adoption of teleconferencing and other practices that the world is now catching up with.

At Gaza Sky Geeks, an incubator for young entrepreneurs, computer programmers, and web developers work remotely with international firms.

“Because of the years-long blockade on us, Gaza people better understand the current situation in world countries,” said Angham Abu Abed, 24, a computer engineer who works with a software company in Britain.

“We hope the blockade on us will end, and we hope the virus will disappear from the world.”

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