Islamic Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip on Sunday urged Egypt to reactivate mutual commercial cooperation after an eight-month halt following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Deputy minister of economy in the Hamas government Hatem Oweda told reporters that Egypt's boycott has led to an unprecedented deterioration in Gaza's economy.
No official trade ties have been established between Hamas and Egypt. But Palestinians used an illegal network of around 1,200 tunnels underneath the Gaza-Egypt border to bring in goods in an attempt to defy a seven-year Israeli blockade.
The 1.7 million Gaza residents have secured most of their commercial needs through these tunnels.
However, the new army-backed rulers of Egypt have blocked most of the underground passages after toppling Morsi, a close ally to the Hamas movement, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood group that the former Egyptian leader hails from.
Egypt's military says the tunnels are being used by Hamas to aid Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
According to Oweda, the tunnels secured around 40 percent of Gaza's needs for basic goods, including construction and raw materials.
The boycott made unemployment rate rise to 39 percent, the worst level since 2010, with around 140,000 workers without a job, he said. "The blocking of the tunnels ... intensifies the effect of the Israeli economic embargo," Oweda added.
He pointed out that only 35 percent of basic commodities come through Kerem Shalom, Gaza's only commercial crossing with Israel, where imports of construction and raw materials are not allowed.