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For a few Gazans, wealth eases pain of year-long siege

One businessman welcomes the cease-fire and the return of supplies from Israel.

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A crippling year-long siege has ground nearly all private economic activity here to a halt. Many ordinary Gazans have suffered under months of an Israeli blockade, but a few wealthy Palestinians have managed to maintain a spot of the good life.

Some of the elite cannot divorce themselves from the misery around them. Others are less apologetic.

Maamon Khozendar, a millionaire who owns gas stations throughout Gaza, a construction company, and has holdings in cement and other industries, does not feel guilty about amassing so much wealth in a sea of poverty.

Still, Mr. Khozendar's riches have helped others get by. He pays all of his 106 employees a full wage despite the fact that only a handful of them have actually worked for the past year.

"This is Eastern morality," he says. "Today, when I have bread, I will divide it and we will all eat. Tomorrow, when I don't have bread, we will go together to search."

As part of a five-day-old cease-fire brokered by Egypt, Israel began to gradually ease its economic blockade on Sunday, allowing 90 truckloads of supplies to be transferred into the Gaza Strip. Before the truce went into effect, only 60 to 70 truckloads of supplies were allowed in, said military spokesman Gil Karie.

"It's very exciting," Khozendar says. "Maybe 10 percent of the people here want to fight. The other 1.4 million just want to live their lives. We [the Israelis and the Palestinians] need some quiet. Quiet is good for business and business is definitely good for quiet."

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