Friday, December 14, 2007

U.N.: More alarm about devastating Israeli blockade on Gaza:

"Life-saving treatments are not available in Gaza hospitals..."

A sign in Arabic saying "no petrol" is seen at a petrol station in Gaza City.


"Alarm raised over effects of Israeli closure on Gaza economy"


December 14, 2007

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JERUSALEM (AFP) — Another UN agency joined the chorus of alarm on Friday about the devastating consequences of Israeli restrictions on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, in the run-up to a Palestinian donors' conference.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that the restrictions Israel tightened after Hamas seized armed control of the territory in June could irrevocably damage the Gaza economy.

It was the third international report released this week about the mounting difficulties endured by the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, following findings from the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.

"The isolation of the Gaza Strip has lasted six months, leaving the local economy to possibly face irrevocable damage, and the population in Gaza more reliant on aid than ever before," the OCHA said.

Severe shortages and restrictions on imports and exports have begun to distort markets in Gaza, putting anything other than the most basic goods and foods beyond the buying power of a large portion of the population.

Hundreds of business have gone bankrupt due to a ban on foreign trade, thousands have lost jobs due to the collapse of the building industry and construction projects worth 370 million dollars are on hold indefinitely.

Israel's reduction of fuel supplies -- in an effort to curb nearly daily rocket attacks from Gaza militants -- has affected all sections of the population and threatened essential services and water supply.

Life-saving treatments are not available in Gaza hospitals, with 17 percent of patients with referrals refused exit for treatment, while baby milk, medicines and cooking oil are increasingly scarce, OCHA said.

"Low stock levels, rising prices, increased joblessness and loss of incomes are having devastating consequences for the population and local economy, and the livelihoods of the people of Gaza," OCHA said.

"If the closures are not eased, the UN predicts the need for food and direct assistance will sharply rise above and beyond the current level of 80 percent of the population," the report said.

On Thursday, the World Bank said Israeli restrictions, including some 500 roadblocks in the occupied West Bank and a harsh clampdown on Palestinian movements from Gaza, must be eased if the Palestinian economy is to grow.

On Monday, the Palestinian Authority, which has effectively lost control of Gaza, hopes to secure 5.6 billion dollars from world donors in Paris to bankroll ambitious development plans and keep their finances afloat.

But "the successful implementation of Palestinian commitments alone will not achieve even the modest growth anticipated" in the plan, the World Bank said.

"They must be fully supported by both the large increase in (donor) aid and the relaxation of the closure regime anticipated" by the plan, said the bank.

A week before the donors' conference, the World Health Organisation voiced alarm about the health consequences of the "intolerable" isolation of Gaza.

Israel closed the Gaza Strip to all but essential humanitarian supplies after the radical Islamist movement Hamas -- which does not recognise the right of the Jewish state to exist -- seized armed control in mid-June.