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Unemployment skyrockets in Gaza
Photo: AFP
Hamas: 65% of Gazans unemployed
Hamas labor minister says 80% are beneath poverty line, and 85% rely on foreign aid for relief

Sixty-five percent of the work force in Gaza is currently unemployed, Hamas labor minister Ahmed al-Kurd said Thursday.

 

Moreover, 80% of Gazans were living below the poverty line and 85% were dependent on the aid of international organizations such as the UN's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), he said.

 

Al-Kurd claims there are 150,000 construction workers currently out of work in Gaza. According to records, prior to the intifada 120,000 Gazan workers were employed in Israel.

 

The Hamas official said unemployment was expected to increase due to the Israeli blockade and the worldwide economic crisis.

 

Gazans were depending on a $4.5 billion package of reconstruction aid recently pledged for the Gaza Strip by international donors in March.

 

But John Ging, who heads UNRWA, said Gaza had still not benefited from any of the aid because of restrictions on the flow of goods into the territory.

 

"Billions of dollars were pledged for recovery and reconstruction and yet none of that can actually connect with those whose lives were destroyed," Ging told a news briefing during a trip to European Union headquarters in Brussels.

 

'Access crucial for reconstruction'

The top UN official in the Mideast, Robert Serry, toured Gaza and issued a strong statement about the coastal area's hardships following the IDF offensive in January.

 

Noting a shortage of construction material Serry stated that "better access is crucial" for the reconstruction to take off.

 

Regarding Israel's concerns that Hamas could divert the materials for militant purposes, Serry acknowledged the goods must be used "in a manner that would ensure" the supplies be "only used for their intended purposes."

 

Despite the billions of dollars in foreign pledges, many Gazans believe the reconstruction can never truly proceed until Israel opens the crossings.

 

"No one has begun rebuilding, it's a lie," says Nabil Abed Rabu. He and his 34 family members were rendered homeless by the fighting. "Everything we've heard until now has been a lie. Everyone has made promises but we've been living without a home for four months."

 

Meanwhile Jihad al-Shaer, resident of Gaza, got tired of waiting for Israel to allow cement and steel into the Gaza Strip and took matters into his own hands. He told Reuters on Wednesday that he has begun building a house of clay bricks.

 

"There is no alternative. Cement is not coming in and our factions are not reconciling," Shaer said, referring to the lack of progress in Palestinian unity talks, which were adjourned once again this week until mid-May, with no sign of an accord.

 

Reuters and AP contributed to this report

 

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