Palestinians gather at a cattle market for the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha in the central Gaza Strip, on August 16, 2018. (Xinhua / Wissam Nassar)
GAZA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) – On the eve of the -Adha feast of Muslims, the cattle markets in the Palestinian Gaza Strip have witnessed a low turnout of customers due to the severe economic deterioration caused by the ongoing Israeli blockade that has existed for more than a decade.
"Fewer people buy sacrificial animals for the party due to the difficult economic conditions and high rates of poverty and unemployment," veterinary surgeon Saed al-Batniji complained.
Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, is celebrated worldwide by Muslims in memory of the almost sacrifice of his own son by the Prophet Abraham at God's command.
It comes at the end of the pilgrim rituals in Saudi Arabia as Muslims who slaughter sheep, goats, camels or calves as a means of getting closer to Allah (God).
Al-Batniji told Xinhua that the market is full of cattle of different kinds, "but people have no money to buy."
"The long years of the Israeli blockade have reduced the purchasing power of the population and sold less than a third of what I have sold in recent years," he added.
The coastal enclave also suffers from a political division resulting from the violent takeover by Hamas of Gaza.
According to the latest data from the Palestinian Central Statistical Office, unemployment in the Gaza Strip reached 53.7 percent compared to 19.1 percent in the West Bank.
The blockade has pushed Gaza's two million inhabitants deeper into poverty while economists in Gaza point out that extreme poverty hit 53 percent in 2017, compared to 37 percent in 2011.
This year's average price is lamb in Gaza is 350 US dollars, while the price of a calf share is 450 dollars, which exceeds the capacity of a large proportion of the Palestinians in Gaza, causing the markets to go through an unprecedented recession.
Livestock traders say that a large proportion of people buy animals in parts because of the limited salaries of Palestinian Authority employees who receive 50 percent of their salary or Hamas employees who receive 40 percent of their payments.
In recent years, Gazans have adopted a subsystem to buy a sacrifice because of the deteriorating financial situation of the majority of the population.
Through this system, consumers can buy shares in a cow or a calf and can also pay in installments after agreement with cattle traders.
Rafat Ashour, an engineer from Gaza, joined six other people this year to buy a sacrifice.
Ashour told Xinhua that he wants to sacrifice every festival because it is an important Islamic ritual for all financially competent Muslims.
According to the rituals, the meat is divided into three thirds, one distributed to less fortunate families, one for family members and the last for the family to cook during the four-day festival.
Gaza's local livestock production over the past few years covered 40 percent of the domestic market's needs. However, most of the livestock in Gaza are now imported from Europe and enter the blocked territory by Israel.
Head of livestock in Gaza's agricultural ministry, Taher Abu Ahmed, said the needs of the Gaza Strip of sacrificial animals are estimated annually at 8,000 calves and around 20,000 sheep, adding that Gaza consumed 14,000 calves and 30,000 sheep during the off-season last year  Abu Ahmed stressed that this year's demand is low due to the higher rates of poverty and the rising prices of animals worldwide, in addition to the costs of growing and transporting the animals.