Gaza's car graveyards turn to profit

Thousands of cars brought into Gaza from Israel decades ago have long piled up in Mad Max-style wastelands of rusting metal.

The decaying hulks scar the northern part of the Palestinian enclave, but this bleak scene is about to change.

For years Palestinian vehicles and drivers have been blocked by Israeli walls and checkpoints.

Now, a shift in Israeli policy means that thousands of the old cars and other pieces of scrap metal are finally leaving Gaza.

And local merchants, like Ahmed Moussa are cashing in.

"There is a huge amount here. We have been collecting material for the past 15 years, all of this was not exported for around 15 years. Here I have, for an example, 20,000 tons. Some people such as merchants have 20, others have 10. Some people have been gathering metal for 15 years. In Gaza, around 200,000 tons are piled up in Gaza."

Everything from used truck parts to empty soda cans have accumulated along Gaza's frontier since the imposition of an Israeli-led blockade in 2007.

In October Israeli authorities cleared the metal for export to crushing plants inside Israel, creating a welcome source of revenue in the impoverished strip.

Israel is allowing 1,000 tons to be exported per week, at this pace the backlog would be cleared in four years.

Many Gazans would prefer to crush and recycle the metal for use inside the enclave, and build their own factories to recycle.

That wish is blocked by Israel and Egypt. They restrict the entry of machinery into the Gaza Strip, citing the security threat posed by its Islamist rulers, Hamas.

Among the equipment prohibited is anything that could be used by militant groups to manufacture weapons - including new metal pressing machines.

But the work is still welcome news in Gaza where unemployment is 49%.

Merchants say the exports have secured jobs for around 6,000 Palestinian laborers.