New luxury mall in Gaza
New luxury mall in Gaza Israel news photo: Flash 90

Hamas has announced that a new mall will be built in the Gaza Strip. Yusuf Mansi, Minister of Housing and Public Works of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, told Gaza-based news agency Safa on Thursday that his office is currently on a plan to build a new mall. The 44-acre mall will be located in Gaza City and will be the largest shopping center in the Strip, said Mansi.

The mall will be built on land that was established in 1929 by the British Mandate as the region’s military headquarters, and as of 1948 served as the headquarters of the Egyptian military governor. Beginning in 1967 the same land served as headquarters of the Israeli military governor until the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, which turned the place into its security headquarters. The area was bombed by the Israeli Air Force during Operation Cast Lead in December of 2008 and was almost completely destroyed.

According to the report, a decision to destroy the security headquarters was arrived at already in July 2008 by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah.The demolition by Israel only caused the preparations for new construction on the land to speed up. Several months before the Gaza war, a workshop was held to discuss the proposed development plans. The workshop was attended by representatives from universities and municipalities as well as by investors. During a recent cabinet meeting held on October 26, the Ministry of Housing and Public Works was given the task of taking over the area and conduct research in preparation for the execution of the building plan. Mansi told Safa said that contacts are being made at the present time with potential investors, and in any case the intention is to rent the commercial space and not sell them.

This new mall is not the first mall to be built in Gaza. This past summer, Gaza City’s first luxury mall opened. The mall sells Israeli men's clothing, and items from Turkey, France, and the United States. A variety of stores sell cosmetics, clothing, office supplies, toys, shoes, appliances and more. The mall boasts air conditioning and a delivery service.

Although Hamas accuses Israel of imposing a siege on Gaza, and despite tales of deprivation and suffering in the Strip, recent reports have described a very much prosperous Gaza in which prices are low and luxury businesses are booming. Egyptian journalist Ashraf AbuAl-Houl has said that “in actual terms, Gaza is not under siege” and added: “A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza's coast. Further, the site of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me.”

Hamas, meanwhile, continues to implement Sharia law and order in Gaza, stamping hard on all Fatah opposition. Former thriving Jewish communities that were destroyed have been turned into state-controlled land and a government control unit is working hard to prevent any illegal seizure of these lands. Areas are being rented for purposes such as agricultural projects and raising sheep, in coordination with the Ministry of Health. Also, the Hamas government is examining the possibility of building residential buildings to help cope with the population growth in the Strip. An estimated 120 thousand new housing units would be required. Gaza is a place of stark contrasts:  the rich, the smugglers and the Hamas-connected residents are doing well, while the poor and professed Fatah supporters live in deprivation and fear.