29 August 2012, 17:08

Gaza could become ‘unlivable’ by 2020 – UN report

Gaza could become ‘unlivable’ by 2020 – UN report
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The Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020 unless action is taken to improve basic services there, a UN report says.

Gaza’s infrastructure in water, power, health, education and sanitation “is struggling to keep pace with a growing population”, the report says. Gaza will need 440 new schools, 800 more hospital beds and over 1,000 medics. The territory’s underground sources of fresh water may be exhausted by 2016. Most Gaza residents, 51% of whom aged under 18, are jobless. UN experts point to the difficulty of improving Gaza`s economic situation due to ‘the closure of the Gaza Strip’.

Dmitry Maryasis, analyst at the department for Israel and Jewish communities’ research of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, says that the situation could be improved by politicians:

"Using the potential of Israel would be the most proper thing to do here. The problem is that the conflict continues, making the use of Israeli resources and technology impossible."

Palestinians in Gaza depend heavily on UN aid, outside funding and smuggling through tunnels under the Egyptian border. The tunnels are used to deliver food, construction materials, car fuel and even cars.

Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi and the radical Hamas faction which is controlling Gaza have recently agreed a deal to start destroying the tunnels in exchange for the opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the resumption of power supplies. It has resulted in resumed fuel supplies to Gaza from Qatar. This is the only energy source for the local power plant. 1,200 tunnels were destroyed by the Egyptian army.

Cairo admits that this was part of a general anti-terrorism operation launched in early August. The aim was to stop arms supplies to Gaza, as well as prevent rebels from accessing the territory. Egypt’s Islamic government is interested in stopping violence in the Sinai Peninsula. That is why Cairo has been trying to persuade Hamas to stop smuggling and trade petrol and cars legally.

Experts, however, are not very optimistic about Cairo`s deal with Hamas. Five years of Israeli blockade on Gaza gave rise to some influential business clans that control the smuggling industry. Some 10,000 people are said to be involved in shadow economy, its turnover estimated- approximately- at up to $700 million per year, though the real figures could be many times higher. Billionaires linked to Hamas will hardly agree to lose such a lucrative source of income. It means that new tunnels will be built, allowing militants enter Sinai and target Israel. In view of this, Tel Aviv will do everything to protect its territories from terrorists and maintain the blockade. Ordinary Palestinians will again fall victim to this vicious circle, which means that next UN report on Gaza will sound even more pessimistic.

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