Gaza, World Bulletin- In his Gaza City field, Mortagi Abo Moghla reaps the annual yield from what remains of his beehive, which was badly damaged during last summer's Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip.
"I lost half of my 400 honeycombs during the war, which has cut my harvest this year," Abo Moghla, wearing a white beekeeper's outfit that covers his entire body, told The Anadolu Agency while extracting honey from a wax board.
"I was supposed to harvest 4,000kg of honey, but now I won't be able to harvest more than 1,200kg," he said, noting that losses to his harvest this season had amounted to $60,000.
The 48-year-old beekeeper also said he had lost 600kg of his honey inventory – as well as honey-extracting equipment – when Israeli forces bombed his home during 51 days of intense Israeli bombardment last summer.
"If it weren't for heavy rainfall and the flowers blooming early, we would have collected a much smaller harvest this year," he said.
By mid-April each year, hundreds of Palestinian beekeepers begin collecting the Gaza Strip's annual honey harvest, which the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry estimates at some 200 tons.
But like most sectors of the war-battered enclave's economy, Gaza's beekeeping industry was hard hit by the Israeli offensive, which destroyed over a third of Gaza's total beehives.
Khaled al-Aila, head of statistics at the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry in the Gaza Strip, said the Israeli offensive had destroyed over 10,000 of the territory's 24,000 beehives.
"Favorable weather conditions might alleviate beekeepers' losses," al-Aila said.
Al-Aila told The Anadolu Agency that Gaza's beekeeping industry had sustained some $3 million in material damage as a result of the Israeli offensive.
Hussein Salem, 67, said his failure to reach his beehive in northern Gaza during last summer's onslaught had left him unable to care for it in the run-up to this year's spring harvest.
"The bees have been weakened from weeks of insufficient care, which reduced production," Salem, who has worked as a beekeeper for 28 years, told The Anadolu Agency.
Salem said he had lost 70 of his 135 honeycombs when his field was shaken by Israeli artillery.
Salem, who sports a long white beard, said the damage had resulted in losses to his business worth some $34,000.
He added that he had yet to receive any compensation from the authorities.
Israel's seven-week onslaught on the blockaded Gaza Strip last summer resulted in losses of some $550 million for Gaza's agricultural sector alone, according to figures released by the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry.