Work was in full swing to add a new wing to the Gaza Strip's Aqsa University with a view to providing Palestinian students with a better educational environment.
But an abrupt Israeli ban on construction materials has brought the project to a relative standstill.
"The construction sector has returned to square one," Nabil Abu Muailaq, head of the Palestinian Construction Syndicate, told Anadolu Agency. "All construction projects have been suspended."
On September 22, Israel allowed the entry of construction materials into the besieged coastal enclave for the first time in six years.
But two weeks ago, Israeli authorities suspended deliveries following the discovery of an underground tunnel extending from the strip into Israel-occupied territory.
The move has left the planned 1000-square-meter, seven-floor university wing unfinished.
"The building must be completed," desperate contractor Zuhair Dawoud told AA, describing the new Israeli ban on construction materials as "catastrophic."
"All building activity has stopped," he said, "putting thousands of construction workers out of work and costing them their only source of income."
Since 2007, Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip – home to some 1.7 million Palestinians – and banned construction materials from entering the territory for "security reasons."
The six-year-old Israeli blockade has forced Gazans to resort to a network of underground tunnels along the borders with Egypt, which in recent years have been used to smuggle vital commodities into the strip.
"The [building materials] ban and the tunnel closures will push Gaza to economic catastrophe," Abu Muailaq warned.
The Egyptian military, meanwhile, has launched a wide-range campaign to destroy the network of underground tunnels on which the people of Gaza have come to depend.
According to Gaza's Economy Ministry, 276,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing Israeli blockade and Egypt's recent crackdown on the smuggling tunnels.
The Israeli ban on construction materials has also caused thousands of Gazan workers to lose their jobs.
"We were delighted when Israel began allowing construction materials into Gaza," Munzir Ahl, 47, told AA.
"But our joy has turned into a nightmare," added Ahl, the main breadwinner for his 13-member family. "Now we're unemployed again and stand on the verge of starvation."
The Israeli ban has also forced Khalid, a young man in his twenties, to postpone his wedding plans due to the current lack of construction materials with which to complete his half-built apartment.
According to estimates, Gazans require more than 4,000 tons of cement, 16,000 tons of gravel, 800 tons of cement and 800 tons of iron every day.
AALast Mod: 24 Ekim 2013, 16:14