A new United Nations (UN) report found that the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip has resulted in $16.5 billion losses to its crippling economy and pushed more than half of the enclave's residents below the poverty line.
The report, which was issued on Wednesday by the UN's Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to the General Assembly, covered the years between 2007 and 2018.
In the report, UNCTAD called on the Israeli occupation to immediately stop the continuing siege that has caused a near-collapse of economic activities in Gaza and a poverty rate of 56 per cent.
"The situation is going to get worse if the blockade continues," predicted Mahmoud Elkhafif, coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People of UNCTAD.
"This unfair blockade in which two million Palestinians are kept inside Gaza should be lifted immediately. They should be allowed to move freely, do business, trade with the outside world and reconnect with their families outside of the Strip," Elkhafif added.
Since June 2007, Gaza residents have been under a strict Israeli land, air and sea embargo, which undermines even their movement for medical treatment.
Under this oppressive siege, Israel has reduced the entry of goods to a minimum, while external trade and exports have been stopped except in very exceptional cases.
The report stated that the Gaza population has very limited access to safe water and lacks regular electricity supply, and even a proper sewage system.
"Unless Palestinians in the strip get access to the outside world, it is difficult to see anything but under-development being the fate of the Gaza Palestinian society," according to Richard Kozul-Wright, director of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies at UNCTAD. "It is really shocking that in the 21st century, two million people can be left in that kind of condition."
The report also stated that at least 3,793 Palestinians had been killed, some 18,000 wounded and more than half of Gaza's population displaced in three Israeli wars, with several brief invasions during the time of the siege.
More than 1,500 commercial and industrial enterprises were damaged, along with some 150,000 household units and public infrastructure including energy, water, sanitation, health, educational facilities and government buildings.
As a result of the siege and the wars on Gaza, the poverty rate jumped from 40 per cent in 2007 to 56 per cent in 2017, meaning that more than one million Palestinians have no survival means.
The report estimates that bringing this segment of the population above the poverty line would require an injection of funds amounting to $838 million, four times the amount needed in 2007.
Between 2007 and 2018, the economy in Gaza grew by less than five per cent, and its share in the Palestinian economy decreased from 31 per cent to 18 per cent in 2018. As a result, GDP per capita shrank by 27 per cent and unemployment increased by 49 per cent.
In order to reset the Gaza economy, the UNCTAD report included several recommendations, including a call to enable the Palestinian government to develop oil and natural gas resources off the shore of Gaza.
"This would secure the required resources for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery of Gaza's regional economy, which would significantly boost the economy and the financial position of the Palestinian National Authority," the report recommended.