Gaza faces economic ruin: UN


Summary

Israel and Egypt closed their crossings with Gaza to all but humanitarian aid after the Islamic militant Hamas seized power in the coastal strip in June.

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The closures have exacerbated poverty among the 1.4 million residents of the already impoverished territory.

The blockade has created a highly volatile situation, and the window of opportunity for addressing it “is small and fast closing,” said Filippo Grandi, the deputy head of UN Relief and Works Agency, the international body responsible for Palestinian refugees.

“Gaza risks becoming a virtually 100 per cent aid dependent, closed down and isolated community within a matter of months or weeks, if the present regime of closure continues,” Mr Grandi told reporters today at a Gaza City press conference.

Failure to open the crossings will “lead to disastrous consequences” and an “atmosphere of hopelessness and despair in which extremism is likely to take hold,” he cautioned.

The cumulative losses to industry in Gaza have reached $23 million since the Hamas takeover – according to figures released today by the Association of Palestinian Businessmen.

If the closure continues, at least 120,000 workers in Gaza could lose their jobs, the association said.

Refugees returned

Meanwhile, the last of more than 6,300 Palestinians stranded in Egypt since the closure of its border with Gaza were ferried home on a fleet of buses through Israel today, a senior Israeli army officer said.

Colonel Nir Press, head of Israel’s liaison team dealing with Palestinian authorities, said the Palestinians crossed the Egypt-Israel border at Nitzana, in the Negev desert, and were then taken under escort to the Israel-Gaza border at Erez, about 70 km to the north.

The operation, which began on July 29, was fully co-ordinated with Egypt and the West Bank-based government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said.

Israel has no dealings with the radical Islamic Hamas, which seized control of Gaza violently from Mr Abbas’ forces in June, leading to the closure of the border with Egypt, marooning Palestinians on their way home from visits or work elsewhere in the Arab world.

“It was Hamas who stopped them and Abu Mazen who fixed it,” Mr Press said, using Mr Abbas’ nickname.

Military officials said the final 475 people crossed into Gaza on this evening.

“It was a success,” Mr Press said.

“This puts an end to it.”


Israel and Egypt closed their crossings with Gaza to all but humanitarian aid after the Islamic militant Hamas seized power in the coastal strip in June.

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The closures have exacerbated poverty among the 1.4 million residents of the already impoverished territory.

The blockade has created a highly volatile situation, and the window of opportunity for addressing it “is small and fast closing,” said Filippo Grandi, the deputy head of UN Relief and Works Agency, the international body responsible for Palestinian refugees.

“Gaza risks becoming a virtually 100 per cent aid dependent, closed down and isolated community within a matter of months or weeks, if the present regime of closure continues,” Mr Grandi told reporters today at a Gaza City press conference.

Failure to open the crossings will “lead to disastrous consequences” and an “atmosphere of hopelessness and despair in which extremism is likely to take hold,” he cautioned.

The cumulative losses to industry in Gaza have reached $23 million since the Hamas takeover – according to figures released today by the Association of Palestinian Businessmen.

If the closure continues, at least 120,000 workers in Gaza could lose their jobs, the association said.

Refugees returned

Meanwhile, the last of more than 6,300 Palestinians stranded in Egypt since the closure of its border with Gaza were ferried home on a fleet of buses through Israel today, a senior Israeli army officer said.

Colonel Nir Press, head of Israel’s liaison team dealing with Palestinian authorities, said the Palestinians crossed the Egypt-Israel border at Nitzana, in the Negev desert, and were then taken under escort to the Israel-Gaza border at Erez, about 70 km to the north.

The operation, which began on July 29, was fully co-ordinated with Egypt and the West Bank-based government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said.

Israel has no dealings with the radical Islamic Hamas, which seized control of Gaza violently from Mr Abbas’ forces in June, leading to the closure of the border with Egypt, marooning Palestinians on their way home from visits or work elsewhere in the Arab world.

“It was Hamas who stopped them and Abu Mazen who fixed it,” Mr Press said, using Mr Abbas’ nickname.

Military officials said the final 475 people crossed into Gaza on this evening.

“It was a success,” Mr Press said.

“This puts an end to it.”