Gaza Pepsi plant closes, owners blame Israeli restrictions
GAZA, June 21 (Reuters) – Gaza bottling company Pepsi was forced to shut down operations this week due to Israeli import restrictions that were tightened during an 11-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian activists last month, according to the owners of the company.
With a widely upheld truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Israel on Monday authorized a limited resumption of exports from the enclave. Read more
But he has kept in place tightened measures on imports of raw materials, including carbon dioxide and syrup that the bottling plant needs to produce Pepsi, 7UP and Mirinda soda, Hamam al. -Yazeji of Pepsi Gaza.
“Yesterday we ran out of raw materials completely and unfortunately had to shut down the factory, sending 250 workers home,” Yazeji said. Before the fighting in May, he said, Pepsi Gaza was generally allowed to import the necessary materials.
Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the tightened restrictions.
Israel and neighboring Egypt maintain tight control over Gaza’s borders, and say the restrictions are necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas and preventing them from being produced locally.
Egypt and the United Nations stepped up their mediation last week after incendiary balloons launched from Gaza sparked retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on Hamas sites, undermining the fragile ceasefire.
Closures could also occur at other factories in Gaza if Israeli restrictions are maintained, analysts said. The manufacturing industry accounts for around 10 percent of Gaza’s service-dominated economy, according to UN data.
The Pepsi Gaza factory has been operating continuously since 1961, when the Gaza-based Yazeji Soft Drinks Company acquired the rights to produce 7UP and other types of soda in the enclave.
Worth around $ 15 million, the owners say, the plant’s products are distributed locally. A separate branch operates in the occupied West Bank, worth around $ 30 million, which serves the territory as well as East Jerusalem.
Company officials had planned to celebrate 60 years in business before closing on Sunday.
Yazeji had tears in his eyes as he walked through his empty factory on Monday. The shutdown was “catastrophic,” he said.
“This year should have been exceptional, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the start of production.
“We are deprived of marking this anniversary.”
Editing by Rami Ayyub and Raissa Kasolowsky
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