by AP and Israel Hayom Staff
Gaza economy has fallen 6% since the first quarter of 2018, when Hamas launched its border riots campaign, report finds
The Gaza Strip's economy is in "free fall" and Israel and the international community must take urgent action to avoid its "immediate collapse," a report from the World Bank warned Tuesday.
According to the report, Gaza's economy contracted by 6% in the first quarter of 2018 and unemployment there is now over 50% – and over 70% among Gaza's youth.
The World Bank said the enclave's crippled economy was the result of various factors, starting with Israel's decade-long blockade against Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007 in a military coup, as well as budget cuts by the rival Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid, particularly from the United States.
"A combination of war, isolation, and internal rivalries has left Gaza in a crippling economic state and exacerbated the human distress," said Marina Wes, the World Bank's director for the region.
The report was released ahead of a high-level meeting this Thursday of the bank's Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, responsible for coordinating development assistance to the Palestinians.
The increasingly dire economic situation in Gaza "has reached a critical point," Wes said.
"Increased frustration is feeding into the increased tensions, which have already started spilling over into unrest and set back the human development of the region's large youth population."
Gazans have staged near-weekly violent demonstrations along the border with Israel since late March. Hamas has led and organized the protests, which include remote arson attacks, in which burning kites and balloons are sent over the border to spark fires in Israel. Thousands of fires have devastated 10,000 acres of fields, nature reserves, and open land in southern Israel.
The World Bank report called on Israel to lift restrictions on trade and movement of goods and people to help improve Gaza's economy, and called for the development of "legitimate institutions to govern Gaza in a transparent and efficient manner."
AP and Israel Hayom Staff
Follow Middle East and Terrorism on Twitter