UN fears a 5-year lifespan for Gaza
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The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has issued a report stating that the Palestinian territory of Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends continue.
The U.N. said that blockades on the semi-autonomous territory are a chokehold on its economy. The report issued Sept. 1 found that the territory's 1.8 million people rely on aquifers for potable water, with only 5 percent of the water safe to drink.
Emily Harris of NPR reported that recent wars with Israel have so severely debilitated infrastructure that the territory has been in a state of “de-development” since 2007.
“With high unemployment for a long time … people lose their skills,” she reported. “With slow reconstruction after wars and little access to outside markets, the capacity to produce things or even purify water in Gaza erodes.”
According to the World Bank, $3.5 billion has been allocated to Gaza reconstruction after the 2014 war, but only 20 percent of that money has been distributed thus far.
Vance Culbert heads the Norwegian Refugee Council — a key organization in Gaza reconstruction — and told the BBC that the blockade of building materials is crippling even when capital is available to rebuild.
"If we look at the outstanding damage for previous conflicts, we're up to 22 years, and if you look at the overall housing shortage in Gaza, then it will take 76 years" to rebuild, he said.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been holding secret talks with Hamas this year, according to The Telegraph. He aims to secure the end of the blockade in exchange for a long-term ceasefire agreement.
Israel, however, will not publicly acknowledge such talks and has been insistent that Palestinians must reject Hamas to secure policy change.
Policy analyst Yousef Munayyer wrote in Al Jazeera that reduced tensions in the region make the present a hopeful time for a political solution.
“The movement toward normalization of U.S.-Iran relations may serve as a building block upon which the two countries can work together toward regional stability,” Munayyer said. “Other key regional players may devote more energy toward the plight of Palestinians, since the issue remains a focal point for Arab publics and has the potential to drive regional instability.”
Gaza has become increasingly isolated after Islamist party Hamas won control of the government in 2006 and began open antagonization of Israel over land disputes.