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Photos: Gaza is changing
Thursday, November 15th, 2012

As Israel unleashes a wave of air strikes and modern firepower against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, the fresh military offensive threatens to undo what was an unlikely economic boom taking hold in the war-battered territory.

Sky-scraping apartment complexes, glitzy new shopping malls and extravagant hotel retreats have sprouted amid the rubble in the last couple years. Unemployment dropped to 28 percent from a record-high of 45 percent at the height of the Israeli blockade in 2007.

More from GlobalPost: In-depth: Hamas and the business of resistance

Devastated by the economic siege, during which 30 percent of Gaza’s businesses closed, the economy grew a staggering 20 percent in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund. Per capita gross domestic product also increased by 19 percent in 2011.

“The role the [Hamas] government is playing is a positive one. It facilitated the entrance of construction materials, and allowed them to be delivered at reasonable prices,” Nasser Al Helow, a Gazan business mogul with real estate investments and an import business, said in July. “This affected unemployment and stimulated other economic sectors,” he said.

That all could change now, as Hamas and Israel begin trading missiles once again.

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A Palestinian man helps a smuggler to ascend a tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Sept. 30, 2012.

(Said Khatib - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Palestinian smuggler is seen at the entrance of a tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Oct. 4, 2012.

(Said Khatib - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinian farmers load a combine harvester with wheat during the annual harvest season in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2012.

(Said Khatib - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinian farmers harvest strawberries in a field in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Dec. 3, 2011.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinian employees work at the Al-Arees ice cream factory in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 7, 2012.

(Said Khatib - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Palestinian man holds Apple's new iPhone 5 at a mobile phone store in Gaza City on Oct. 16, 2012.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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Gaza's sole power plant in Nusairat on March 26, 2012.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Palestinian farmer climbs a tree to harvest dates in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Oct. 15, 2012.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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A view of the Arcmed Al Mashta Hotel, Gaza's new luxury five-star hotel on the beach front on Aug. 17, 2011 in Gaza City, Gaza.

(Christopher Furlong - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinian fishermen pull out their nets off the coast of Nusseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, on Sept. 19, 2012.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinian youths do arm stands during sunset at the beach in Gaza City on Sept. 17, 2012.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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Palestinians try to extinguish fire following an Israeli air strike on Nov. 14, 2012 in Gaza City.

(Mohammed Abed - AFP/Getty Images)
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