STRIKE SHUTS ISRAEL'S PORT OF EILAT

STRIKE SHUTS ISRAEL'S PORT OF EILAT

Strikers fearing for their jobs shut down the Israeli port of Eilat for two hours last week.

The port has not seen a ship for two weeks. Workers urging government action to prevent its closure paralyzed two airports serving Eilat and cut access to the Egyptian border at Taba.Several hundred demonstrators blocked the highway entrance to the town calling on the government to direct all Israel-bound Far Eastern and African shipping traffic there.

"In January, 1991, the port handled 138,000 tons of freight. In January, 1992, the figure was 36,000," said Eilat Labor Council chairman Gabi Erez.

Mayor Rafi Hochman said 10 percent of the city's population of 26,000 depend on the port for their livelihood.

Unemployment in Israel has hit a 20-year-high of nearly 11 percent, partly as a result of a wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union.

Eilat has also been hard hit by a decline in foreign tourism since the Gulf War last year.