Facing sky-high petrol prices and fewer passengers, Palestinian taxi driver Abdel-Hakim Yassin now powers his shabby cab with cooking gas canisters as a financial crisis deepens in the
Gaza Strip.

When the canister runs out, Yassin, 25, said he quarrels with his wife over using supplies from home.

Mechanics in the Gaza Strip have been switching taxis from petrol or diesel to gas, which at 36 shekels ($8) a bottle is four times cheaper.

Although using cooking gas canisters in cars is illegal in Palestinian areas, mechanics say hundreds of taxis have been altered to save money as business dries up and world oil prices hit new highs.

"What should we do?" said the recently married Yassin, speaking in Gaza’s busiest square.

"Prices of petrol are rocketing and people have no money and employees have not been paid. Policemen prefer walking to taking taxis these days."

The government has been unable to pay salaries to 165,000
Palestinian Authority workers, whose wages are a key driver of economic activity in Gaza and the
West Bank.

Palestinian officials have warned the economy could collapse within months as
Israel and Western countries led by the United States keep up pressure on the new Hamas-led government. The West has cut direct aid while Israel has stopped tax transfers.


Ordinary Palestinians are just looking for cheaper ways to survive.

Using cooking gas canisters to power vehicles has been banned in Gaza — where cars are not designed for alternative and cheaper fuels. But some policemen said they have even been using cooking gas since salaries had been unpaid for two months.

"It is very dangerous. The cars are not made for that and there could be a leak and maybe an explosion," said taxi driver Othman Moghrabi, as gas leaked from a nearby bottle.

"When passengers get annoyed by the smell, I tell them it comes from other cars. I cannot afford to lose them," he said.

Fist fights over customers have become more frequent among taxi drivers. Some go to any length to find passengers.

"I’ll chase passengers and I tell them I am ready to take them to Mars," Othman said, adding he kept a heavy stick in his cab for altercations with fellow drivers.

But some prefer to deal with the economic crisis in a different way.

Abu Al-Fahd, a policeman, said his eight-member family had to sacrifice on food. But the grey-haired man said he was not thinking of switching his car to cooking gas.

"I am thinking of selling it and living on the money with my family," he said.