A giant Palestinian flag is unfurled outside the Church of the Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Christmas Eve
A giant Palestinian flag is unfurled outside the Church of the Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Christmas Eve (Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP) AFP News

According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, since Hamas' on-the-ground massacre and capture of Israelis on October 7, Israel's relentless bombardment and destruction of the Gaza Strip has killed more than 34,262 Palestinians.

Palestinians in the West Bank have also suffered fatalities after the conflict increased tensions in the occupied territory. Since Israel officially declared war on Gaza, at least 288 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, and 3,430 others have been injured.

The conflict has also forced the West Bank into an employment crisis. In December last year, the International Labour Organisation reported that 32 per cent of employment, equal to 276,000 jobs, had been lost since the first week of October.

In December, the World Bank also estimated that the lack of jobs will force the overall Palestinian economy to shrink by almost four per cent in 2023 alone.

Before the conflict erupted, the Female Innovators and Investors of MENA (FINOMENA) were sweeping across the Palestinian territories, working to boost the economy and advocating for female workers in the tech sector.

The women of FINOMENA used their digital skills to open a virtual window into the world for those subject to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

The war has "changed everything" in the West Bank, said FINOMENA Managing Partner Nadiah Sabaneh, who challenges the gender stereotypes in an often male-dominated industry through mentorships and training. "We are trying to outsmart our reality."

West Bank
Violence in the West Bank involving Israeli forces, settlers and armed Palestinian militants -- already rising before the war -- has spiked to levels unseen in two decades. (Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP)

To tackle the restrictions, Sabaneh revealed that she has had talks with the Palestinian authorities regarding new areas of cooperation to figure out ways to help women in the tech sector and showcase their work.

FINOMENA has pledged to continue its online workshops, reaching more than 250 women across the territories.

While Ibrahim Barham, the CEO of Palestinian hardware company SAFAD, told reporters that the West Bank's tech sector had always faced limitations because of the Israeli occupation, the 58-year-old noted that the situation has become much worse.

"This is the most difficult situation we have been through in our entire lives," Barham said, noting that before October 7, every piece of tech equipment that was brought into the West Bank had to be approved by the Israeli authorities.

Official permissions from Israel have since slowed, taking longer to process and driving up costs. According to the CEO, the rising tensions have also resulted in tech engineers facing new risks, including being attacked at Israeli checkpoints or by settlers while travelling around to do their work.

Several tech start-ups have also been forced to declare bankruptcy.

A founder of an AI-powered start-up, who requested to remain anonymous, told reporters that the catastrophic situation forced them to lay off 14 employees and declare bankruptcy.

"Literally no entity tried to help us in these difficult times; we didn't get any support whatsoever," the Palestinian founder said.

Another tech services company in the West Bank said that the increased occupation has caused the firm to lose two new international projects.

The senior executive, who requested to speak on condition of anonymity due to non-disclosure agreements with clients, accused its international clients of an "ignorance of geography" when they were not differentiating between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Palestinian territories are "separate geographical entities," the senior executive said. "They think this area is unstable."