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.


Iran can expand range of ballistic missiles: Guards commander

Updated 10 December 2018
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Iran can expand range of ballistic missiles: Guards commander

  • The Iranian government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities
  • Last month, Hajjizadeh said that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles

GENEVA: Iran has the ability to build ballistic missiles with a broader range, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Monday, according to the semi-official Fars News agency.
Iran’s missiles currently cover a range of 2000 kilometers (1,240 miles) and many “enemy bases” are within 800 kilometers of the Islamic Republic, Amirali Hajjizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, was cited as saying.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
“We have the ability to build missiles with a broader range,” Hajjizadeh said, according to Fars News. He added, “We don’t have limitations from a technical perspective or by conventions with regard to missile range.”
The Iranian government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly its missile program run by the Guards.
Last month, Hajjizadeh said that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles.
In October, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at Daesh militants in Syria after the extremist group took responsibility for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the Guards.