TEL AVIV (Jan. 24)
El Arish has suffered a serious decline of its economy and a general deterioration of living standards since it was handed back to Egyptian rule three months ago. That gloomy report was brought here by a resident of the northern Sinai town who is in Israel on business. He asked not be to identified.
According to the informant, El Arish citizens who used to work in Israel and the thousands of workers who were employed by the Israeli authorities in and around El Arish are now jobless. Money is scarce, as is housing and many people live in tents pitched in the middle of town. The once flourishing fishing industry is dead, the El Arish man told Yediot Achronot. Restrictions imposed by the Egyptian authorities have led to an increase in smuggling. The smugglers of goods to and from Israel are the only people making money, he said.
According to this visitor, the people of El Arish wish the Israelis were back. It was recalled that when President Anwar Sadat visited El Arish during the formal Egyptian takeover last year, his aides were infuriated by posters that said, “Sadat, when will you return El Arish to Israel?” A number of arrests were made at the time.