Gaza may become uninhabitable because of destruction, warns UN

Urgent action needed to lift Israeli blockade, says report

Palestinians working  on a  building  destroyed during the conflict  in the summer of last year in Gaza. Photograph:  Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinians working on a building destroyed during the conflict in the summer of last year in Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

 

Without urgent remedial action, Gaza may become uninhabitable by 2020 as a result of Israel’s military operations and siege and blockade, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has said.*

The annual report states that during the 2014 conflict half a million people were displaced, and 20,000 Palestinian homes 148 schools and 15 hospitals and 45 primary health centres were destroyed or severely damaged. Additionally, damage was sustained by Gaza’s sole power station, electricity lines, agricultural wells, factories, commercial sites and the desalination plant located at Deir al-Balah.

The cost of the conflict to the agricultural sector is estimated at $550 million (€490 million).

 

Israeli military operations

The 18-page report covering economic development in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories states: “Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, and left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery.”

 

Consequently, the Palestinian population of the strip is worse off than it had been for two decades. The UN warns that unless the blockade is lifted “donor aid . . . will not reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment”.

Ahead of the 2014 conflict, the blockade had “inflicted large-scale destruction on Gaza’s local economy, productive assets and infrastructure”. Acute shortages of water, electricity and fuel impacted on the strip’s industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors as well as the homes of Gaza citizens. The electricity supply, essential for advancement, particularly in urban societies, was less than 40 per cent of demand.

Since the 2007 blockade, exports from Gaza have been “almost completely banned, imports and transfers of cash restricted and the most basic humanitarian goods suspended”. Last summer’s war “impacted an already paralysed economy at a time when . . . conditions” had fallen to the lowest level since Israel occupied the coastal strip in 1967.

Consequently the latest war was far more harmful than Israel’s 2008-2009 and 2012 military operations.

Over the past year Gaza’s GDP has shrunk 15 per cent, unemployment has soared to 44 per cent, the highest level on record, and “de-development” has been accelerated. Gazans are “more impoverished than they were before the [1993] Oslo Accords that were meant to end the conflict and more deprived than their compatriots in the West Bank “who are subject to significant but comparatively less destruction”.

The combination of war and blockade “has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid”.

Food insecurity affects 72 per cent of households. Consequently , the majority of the population is forced into dependency on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs.

The number of 1948 Palestinian refugees who rely entirely on UN rations has ballooned from 72,000 in 2000 to 868,000 in May this year.

* Clarification: The UNCTAD report referred to an 'economic siege'