Gaza may already be ‘unlivable’: UN official

AFP

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© AFP/File | Palestinian women bake bread next to their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on April 19, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Gaza Strip may already be “unlivable”, a United Nations official warned Tuesday, after a decade of Hamas rule and a crippling Israeli blockade.

Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the Palestinian territories, told AFP in an interview to mark a new report on living conditions in Gaza all the “indicators are going in the wrong direction”.

“We predicted some years ago that Gaza would fast become unlivable on a host of indicators and that deadline is actually approaching even faster than we predicted — from health access, to energy to water,” he said.

A 2012 UN report predicted the Palestinian enclave would be “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade.

Piper pointed out that power supplies were down to as little as two hours a day in Gaza, where medical care had been slashed and youth unemployment was over 60 percent.

In such circumstances “for most of us that unlivability point has already been passed”, he said.

“And yet somehow the Gazans soldier on.”

The Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, leading Israel to impose a crippling blockade which critics say punishes all of the two million residents indiscriminately.

Since 2013 Egypt, the only other country with which Gaza shares a border, has largely closed off its crossing and destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels that provided a vital lifeline for the economy while also allegedly being used by Hamas to smuggle weapons.

The new UN report, “Gaza — Ten Years Later,” says more than 95 percent of Gaza’s water is now unfit for drinking, while electricity supplies have reached critical levels in recent months — falling to only a few hours a day.

The secular Palestinian Authority, which runs the internationally recognised government in the West Bank, has recently begun a campaign to squeeze Hamas — including cutting funding for electricity and allegedly reducing the number of permits given to sick Gazans seeking medical treatment outside the enclave.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, the most recent in 2014.

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Nikki Haley

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