Gaza Factory Exports Face Masks to Israel During COVID-19 

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to slow businesses in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a small factory in the enclave is firing up its production to help supply for a face mask shortage in Israel.  Shehada Factory was devoted to making clothes for Palestinians and for Israeli markets before March when Hamas militant group imposed strict restrictions due to the pandemic. Using raw material provided by Israeli merchants, the garment factory has now pivoted its business to produce 50,000 face masks per day— all of which are exported to Israel.   “The Israelis are in need of surgical face masks, and in the Gaza Strip we need to employ as many workers as possible to ease the harsh economic conditions,” the 55-year-old factory owner, Hasan Shehada, told VOA.  Before the spread of coronavirus, Shehada said his factory used to work at a rather slow pace producing clothes for local and Israeli markets. But it is now thriving as more than sixty of its workers strive each day to meet Israel’s high demand for face masks.  As of Wednesday, Israel has reported over 16,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 2884 active cases and 279 deaths. The Israeli government this week eased its social distancing measures in a move that officials said was to help the country’s education system.  West Bank and Gaza have registered only 391 cases of coronavirus, with 20 confirmed cases in Gaza. However, the economic fallout of the virus has cast a shadow on the coastal enclave which has been suffering for years as a result of  the conflict with Israel.  Human Framework Shehada said economic relations between Israel and Gaza were about “mutual interests” on both sides, adding that the spread of the coronavirus has prompted “everybody to deal with others within a human framework.” He said the spike in the factory’s production has resulted in other unusual buyers, including Palestinian businesspeople based in the United States. The U.S. buyers have asked him to supply them with a million face masks.   “Despite limited resources and capabilities, the Gaza Strip is producing surgical face masks at the international level and has become a competitor in the market,” charged Shehada. Muhammad, a 40-year-old worker at the factory and father of seven, told VOA that the spread of coronavirus has unexpectedly improved the economic situation of his family.  “Over the past years, we have been working intermittently when there were orders, but now there is a boom,”’ he said.  Expressing hope that Shehada factory could continue exporting to Israel even after the pandemic, he said his daily wage has improved and he is now allowed ...