JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has cost the seaside territory as much as $16.7 billion in economic losses and sent poverty and unemployment skyrocketing, a U.N. report said Wednesday, as it called on Israel to lift the closure.
The report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development echoed calls by numerous international bodies over the years criticizing the blockade. But its findings, looking at an 11-year period ending in 2018, marked perhaps the most detailed analysis of the Israeli policy to date.
Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes Israel’s existence, violently seized control of Gaza from the forces of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. The Israeli measures, along with restrictions by neighboring Egypt, have tightly controlled the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.
Israel says the restrictions are needed to keep Hamas from building up its military capabilities. The bitter enemies have fought three wars and numerous skirmishes over the years.
But critics say the blockade has amounted to collective punishment, hurting the living conditions of Gaza’s 2 million inhabitants while failing to oust Hamas or moderate its behavior. Gaza has almost no clean drinking water, it suffers from frequent power outages and people cannot freely travel abroad.
“The result has been the near-collapse of Gaza’s regional economy and its isolation from the Palestinian economy and the rest of the world,” the U.N. agency said in a statement.
The report analyzed both the effects of the closure, which has greatly limited Gaza’s ability to export goods, as well as the effects of the three wars, which took place in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014.
The last war was especially devastating, killing over 2,200 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and displacing some 100,000 people from homes that were damaged or destroyed, according to U.N. figures. Seventy-three people, including six civilians, were killed on the Israeli side, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and indiscriminate Hamas rocket fire brought life to a standstill in southern Israel.
Using two methodologies, the report said that overall economic losses due to the blockade and wars ranged from $7.8 billion to $16.7 billion. It said Gaza’s economy grew by a total of just 4.8% during the entire period, even as its population grew over 40%.
These economic losses helped propel unemployment in Gaza from 35% in 2006 to 52% in 2018, one of the highest rates in the world, UNCTAD said.
It said the poverty rate jumped from 39% in 2007 to 55% in 2017. Based on Gaza’s economic trends before the closure, the report said the poverty rate could have been just 15% in 2017 if the wars and blockade had not occurred.
“The impact is the impoverishment of the people of…