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Patrons of the few stalls still open in Gaza City’s Firas souq don’t flinch at the buzz of Israeli surveillance drones overhead or the occasional crash of air strikes. They are inured to the clash of war.
But the prospect of another long round of fighting and another Israeli invasion is casting a shadow of worry over shuttered businesses and cash-strapped families.
“When it all started we bought enough to feed our family for a week. Food could run out or get so expensive we can’t afford it. No one can say when it will end. What can we do?” Ahid Fadl, 18, whispered amid the muddy, open-air shops.
WARNING TO TRADERS
Hamas police officials have attempted to soothe nerves by promising government and market supplies can withstand what may be a punishing days- or weeks-long round of combat, and passed blame for painful prices on rogue merchants and profiteers.
“The Palestinian police considers anyone who tries to monopolize goods or inflate prices a partner of the (Israeli) occupation’s aggression and we will deal with these traders firmly,” said Hamas police chief Tayseer Al-Batsh.
Such announcements have spooked store-owners, caught between the scorn of customers with little money and a wartime government, they have little recourse but to protest their patriotism and blame Israel.
“We praise the government for its steadfastness and its position,” said Ali Jarrousha, standing before his sacks of grain emblazoned with international aid agency.
“Of course some prices have changed around due to the situation, but we Palestinians have experienced worse aggression at Israel’s hands, and we’ll persevere,” he said.
The crowd of shoppers around him appeared unmoved.