The impact of the Gaza war, including the termination of work permits, has left West Bank Palestinians in a dire financial situation as violence in the West Bank escalates.

West Bank Palestinian Ibrahim al-Qiq lost his Israeli job permit after the Gaza war began, plunging him into despair and debt like thousands of others in the Palestinian territory. The war between Israel and Hamas may be happening in Gaza, a separate Palestinian territory on the other side of Israel, but its impact is being powerfully felt in the West Bank.

Israel terminated work permits for Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza following the Hamas attacks on October 7 that triggered the war, leaving many people like Qiq struggling to survive.

A 37-year-old father of three, Qiq earned around 6,000 shekels ($1,615) a month as a construction worker in Israel until he lost his work permit. “We have spent what we earned,” he told AFP. “Our debts have piled up, and we need to buy provisions and pay the rent for our homes and the water and electricity bills.” He has been forced to borrow nearly 7,000 shekels to cover expenses.

His mountainous hometown of Kharas, near the West Bank city of Hebron, has around 12,000 inhabitants. Seventy percent of its workforce used to cross time-consuming Israeli checkpoints every day to work in Israel, according to the local municipality.

Unfinished residential flats are seen near the town of Kharas, north of Hebron in the West Bank on December 6, 2023. (John Macdougall, AFP)

The rest are employed by the Palestinian Authority, but it is struggling to pay staff amid a downturn that saw economic output fall by more than a third in the month after the war began.

Israel has terminated 130,000 work permits for West Bank Palestinians and withheld 600 million shekels ($160 million) in taxes on Palestinian goods, said Manal Qarhan, an official at the Palestinian Ministry of Economy. She said the administration was now losing $24 million per day thanks to the loss of taxes and reduced tourism from Palestinians living in Israel.

Palestinian workers do not receive social insurance or unemployment compensation from the Israeli government, as Israeli workers do—nor is any offered by the Palestinian Authority.

The jobless are left to fend for themselves.

“Those whose wives had gold jewelry sold it to feed their children,” said Tareq al-Hlahla, also unemployed and struggling to support an extended family of 10.

The impact is rippling through the local economy.

Ahmed Radwan, who owns a supermarket in Kharas, said sales were down 70 percent, and he stopped providing groceries on credit after customer debt reached 40 percent of sales. People are buying only “basics like milk, rice, sugar and flour, and those who used to buy bread now only buy half a loaf,” said Radwan. He has laid off half of his six workers, and two more will go this month. “There is no hope,” he said.

On December 12, 2023, the Israeli army searched a Palestinian ambulance at a hospital entrance in Jenin, West Bank. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh, AFP)

Violence has also surged in the West Bank, where Israeli forces conduct regular raids. The Palestinian Authority says around 270 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Army or settlers in the West Bank since the war began.

Israel “has set up around 130 permanent and moving military checkpoints in the West Bank, which force Palestinians to travel on rough side roads that are extremely dangerous because they expose them to settler attacks,” the Palestinian Ministry of Economy said.

The checkpoints worsen the economic impact, say locals, as they complicate the transport of agricultural goods and workers.

Miroslava Salazar, with AFP