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Unholy War: How Israel’s 2014 offensive has left Gaza in shambles

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Blockades, war and poor governance have strangled Gaza’s economy and the unemployment rate is now the highest in the world according to the latest World Bank economic update. The report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a forum of donors to the Palestinian Authority, at the bi-annual meeting in Brussels on May 27, 2015.

The 2014 war has reduced Gaza’s GDP by about US$460 million. Construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and electricity sectors were hit the most with output reductions of 83 per cent in the construction sector in the second half of 2014 and roughly 50 per cent in these other sectors. Gaza became a major source of deficit and the fiscal burden on the Palestinian Authority’s finances amplified by the internal divide. While about 43 per cent of PA’s expenditures are spent in Gaza, only 13 per cent of its revenues come from Gaza.

The report estimates that Gaza’s GDP would have been about four times higher than it currently is if it weren’t for the conflicts and the multiple restrictions. It also states that the blockade in place since 2007 has shaved around 50 percent off Gaza’s GDP.  Unemployment in Gaza is the highest in the world at 43 per cent. Even more alarming is the situation of youth unemployment which soared to more than 60 per cent by the end of 2014.

“Gaza’s unemployment and poverty figures are very troubling and the economic outlook is worrying. The current market in Gaza is not able to offer jobs leaving a large population in despair particularly the youth,” said Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza. “The ongoing blockade and the 2014 war have taken a toll on Gaza’s economy and people’s livelihoods. Gaza’s exports virtually disappeared and the manufacturing sector has shrunk by as much as 60 per cent. The economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world.”

Gaza’s real GDP is only a couple of percentage points higher now than it was 20 years ago in 1994, while the population growth is estimated to have increased by about 230 per cent over the same period. Consequently, real per capita income in Gaza is 31 per cent lower now than in 1994.

Gaza’s population suffers from poor access and quality of basic public services such as electricity, water, and sewerage.  Nearly 80 per cent of Gaza’s population receives some kind of social assistance, and nearly 40 per cent of them still fall below the poverty line. While shocking, these numbers fail to fully convey the difficult living conditions that nearly all Gaza’s residents have been experiencing.

“Even more shocking is the reality that most of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are confined to an area of 160 km square and are not able to travel beyond this area without permits. According to the Washington-based Center for Mind-Body-Medicine, as many as one-third of Gaza’s children showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder even before the 2014 armed conflict, now even more,” said Jorgensen.

Source: World Bank

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Prince William Begins His First Official Middle East visit

He is expected to visit Jerusalem's Old City and the grave of Princess Alice of Greece

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Prince William
Prince William, flickr

Prince William on Sunday began his first official royal visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in a five-day tour of the Middle East.

He will arrive in Jordan on Sunday, meeting Jordanian Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II, reports the BBC.

The Duke of Cambridge is scheduled to meet both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

During his visit to Israel, the Duke of Cambridge will visit the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre and lay a wreath to commemorate those who died during the Second World War.

He is expected to visit Jerusalem’s Old City and the grave of Princess Alice of Greece, his great-grandmother and the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother.

The duke will visit Ramallah in the West Bank, where he will focus on issues facing refugee communities, as well as meeting Abbas.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said: “The historic nature of this tour is of course important and the duke considers it a great privilege to be undertaking the first ever official royal tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, and to be able to help further strengthen the friendship between Jordan and the UK.”

Prince William with his wife Kate
Prince William with his wife Kate

This is the first official tour of Israel or the Palestinian areas by a member of the Royal Family on behalf of the British government.

The Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales have previously visited Jerusalem, but not as part of an official tour.

Also read: New Documentary on Princess Diana accounts Prince William’s and Harry’s Last Memories with their Mother

In 2016, the Prince of Wales also visited Tel Aviv for the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. (IANS)