A Palestinian child holds a traditional Ramadan lantern at a market, ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in Gaza City, on May 16, 2018. (Xinhua/Stringer)
GAZA, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Palestinians in the Gaza Strip marked the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Thursday with much grief due to the deteriorating economic conditions and the recent killing of dozens of their loved ones by Israeli fire.
At least 63 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the past three days in bloody clashes with Israeli soldiers along the borders with Israel.
The ongoing anti-Israel protests in Gaza, known as the "Great March of Return," were launched on March 30 and left at least 111 Palestinians dead.
The rallies peaked on Monday, the day when Israel marks its declaration of independence, causing the death of 60 Palestinians and the injury of hundreds.
The protests on Monday also came in response to the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the holy city the Palestinians want its eastern part as the capital of their future state.
Meanwhile, the commercial movement in the Gaza Strip markets has been very limited amid a severe economic deterioration caused by the decade-long Israeli blockade.
Ramadan is a celebratory religious occasion during which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dusk to dawn.
In preparation for the holy month, people always flock to markets to stock up food and buy different kinds of sweets, candies and soft drinks.
However, lack of cash caused by high rates of unemployment and poverty has made Gazans only afford basic food instead of leisure goods.
"This Ramadan is sad. Life is really difficult for the people in Gaza," Saeed al-Bitar, a toy seller in Gaza City's old market, told Xinhua.
Al-Bitar, who sells Ramadan lanterns and toys, said people just come to the market and watch the goods, they do not have money to buy anything.
Salary cuts in government employees' salaries, which reached 30 percent of salaries and have been ongoing for more than one year, made things worse.
"People hope they could buy everything, but they have no jobs, no money nothing at all. The situation in Gaza is really difficult," the seller said.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment in Gaza Strip reached 43.9 percent compared with 17.9 percent in the West Bank.
Gaza Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned in recent report that the Gaza Strip is unable to create new jobs in light of the high poverty and unemployment rates among its two million populations.
The report said the private sector in Gaza is unable to provide any new job opportunities and there are also no new jobs in the public sector in light of the continued internal political division and the failure to achieve national reconciliation.
Gaza has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since Islamic Hamas movement seized the territory by force after routing forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
The blockade has pushed Gaza's populations deeper into poverty as economists in Gaza point out that extreme poverty hit 53 percent in 2017 compared with 37 percent in 2011.
"This year Ramadan seems different. We used to prepare for it one or two weeks ahead," Fathi Abu Ayed, an unemployed Gaza resident, told Xinhua.
Abu Ayed added that the recent death and injury of many people in clashes with Israeli soldiers along the borders as well as the blockade make it very difficult for Gaza residents to celebrate the holy month.
Faida al-Essi, a Gazan housewife in her 40s, wondered how the Palestinians in Gaza could celebrate Ramadan with so much blood and poverty.
"It is a very sad Ramadan for all Palestinians," al-Essi said.