World Bank report warns Gaza Strip economy is in ‘free fall’

Palestinian schoolchildren a protest Gaza city on February 4, 2018, against the difficult economic situation and the US decision to withhold funds earmarked for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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World Bank report warns Gaza Strip economy is in ‘free fall’

  • The World Bank says Gaza’s economy contracted by 6 percent in the first quarter of 2018
  • It cited various factors, beginning with Israel’s decade-long blockade against the territory’s Hamas rulers

JERUSALEM: The Gaza Strip’s economy is in “free fall,” a report from the World Bank warned Tuesday, calling for urgent action by Israel and the international community to avoid “immediate collapse.”
According to the report, Gaza’s economy contracted by 6 percent in the first quarter of 2018. It said unemployment is now over 50 percent — and over 70 percent among Gaza’s youth.
The World Bank cited various factors, starting with Israel’s decade-long blockade against the territory’s militant Hamas rulers, for the precarious downturn. It also cited budget cuts by the rival Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid to the Palestinians, particularly from the United States.
“A combination of war, isolation, and internal rivalries has left Gaza in a crippling economic state and exacerbated the human distress,” said Marina Wes, the World Bank’s director for the region.
The report was released ahead of a high-level meeting of the bank’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, responsible for coordinating development assistance to the Palestinians, on September 27.

 

Wes said the increasingly dire economic situation in Gaza “has reached a critical point.”
“Increased frustration is feeding into the increased tensions which have already started spilling over into unrest and set back the human development of the region’s large youth population,” she added.
Gazans have staged near weekly demonstrations along the border with Israel since late March, in part to protest the blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt since 2007, when the militant group Hamas seized the territory. Hamas has led and organized the protests, but turnout has also been driven by growing despair over blockade-linked hardship, including lengthy power cuts and soaring unemployment.
Israeli soldiers have killed at least 136 Palestinians during the weekly protests since March, including 27 minors, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. A Palestinian sniper also fatally shot an Israeli soldier. Israel contends it’s defending its border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as a screen for attempts to breach the border fence to attack civilians and soldiers. Human rights groups have accused Israel of excessive and unlawful use of force against unarmed protesters.
In the report, the World Bank calls upon Israel to lift restrictions on trade and movement of goods and people to help improve Gaza’s economy, and urges development of “legitimate institutions to govern Gaza in a transparent and efficient manner.”

FASTFACTS

Unemployment in Gaza is now more than 50 percent — and more than 70 percent among the youth.


Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

Updated 23 October 2018
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Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

  • Hamas took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack
  • Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true

JERUSALEM: A theory that a lightning strike triggered Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza last week gained traction in Israel on Tuesday and might explain the Israeli military’s limited response.
Two rockets were launched from the Hamas-ruled enclave on Oct. 17. But the group took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack. Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true.
One of the rockets wrecked a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, causing no casualties, the other landed in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel responded with air strikes that killed a militant in Gaza.
Soon afterwards, video appeared on social media showing lightning illuminating the night sky in Gaza and then two flaming rockets streaking into the air.
Israel’s best-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet now believed the lighting set off a launch mechanism.
Asked about the report, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel Radio: “I won’t discuss security cabinet meetings and I don’t know which ministers are chatting with journalists, but I can say that as far as we know, Hamas did not intend to fire those rockets.”
Hamas officials had no immediate comment.
The rocket launchings coincided with Egyptian efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars in the past 10 years.