Only ships carrying relief supplies are getting permission from Israel to dock in Lebanon.
BEIRUT, 24 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Israel's 43-day naval and air blockade of Lebanon is hampering trade, experts say. Some commercial flights are being allowed into Beirut International Airport, and some relief-bearing ships into Lebanon's ports, but the economy is under pressure.
"Despite the cessation of hostilities, the Lebanese economy is suffering the consequences of a continued blockade," said Ibrahim Homsi, an independent economic analyst.
Most affected by the blockade, Homsi said, are small and medium-sized businesses. "In any economic crisis, it is the worse off who are hardest hit. Those with more resources can find ways round the crisis," he said.
Beirut supermarket owner Abu Ali concurred, saying he no longer stocks certain products from abroad. "I don't know when I will receive new stock, or whether it is worth it for me financially to have it transferred by land through Syria," he said.
Reports in the Israeli press indicate the blockade may continue for months, until Israel ascertains that Hezbollah is not receiving supplies of weapons, which it claims are transferred from Iran through Syria.
"Should the air and naval blockade continue along with a land blockade by Syria, Lebanon would be cut off from the world," said Homsi. However, he added that he did not believe a total blockade would occur.
Israel launched a military offensive and began a blockade on Lebanon on 12 July after two of its soldiers were captured by the armed wing of a Lebanese political party, Hezbollah.
Although a United Nations-brokered ceasefire came into effect on 14 August, Israel has continued to impose its blockade on Lebanon and its navy continues to patrol the Lebanese coast.
Since the ceasefire, Lebanese and Jordanian airlines have been given permission by Israel to fly in and out of Beirut but all flights have to stop at Amman, the Jordanian capital, for security checks. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
However, humanitarian aid agencies have been able to function relatively normally in Lebanon since the ceasefire.
"But in the larger scheme of the Lebanese economy, humanitarian assistance is a small input and targets the most vulnerable," said David Shearer, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Beirut. "Overall, if the naval blockade continues, then the whole of Lebanon becomes more and more vulnerable."
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