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JERUSALEM - The unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip stood at 45.2 percent in late 2010, one of the highest in the
Israeli siege 'been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.'
world according to a report released on Tuesday by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The figure, for the second half of 2010, was a slight improvement on the 45.7 percent rate during the same period in 2009, but it was an increase from the first half of 2010, when a temporary building boom boosted employment.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said the figures showed the ongoing crisis in Gaza and the continuing effects of Israel's blockade on the coastal territory.
"These are disturbing trends," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said, referring to the both the unemployment figures and statistics showing that real wages were continuing to decline.
He said it was "hard to understand the logic" of Israel's blockade, saying it "deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution."
Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006, after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by a group of Gaza-based militants. It tightened the restrictions a year later, when Hamas seized control of the enclave.
The blockade was relaxed slightly in July 2010, as international pressure mounted on Israel after nine Turkish activists were killed in an Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships seeking to reach Gaza.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from moving weapons, money and people in and out of Gaza, but Gunness said the blockade did not appear to have weakened Hamas.
"Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by about one fifth," he said, noting that private sector jobs have disappeared in the same period.
"If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed," Gunness added.
"But it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region."
Gunness said the high unemployment rates also put increasing pressure on UNRWA, which helps 1.1 million people in Gaza. The agency said the number of "abject poor" it was assisting, those earning less than $1.60 a day, had tripled since the blockade was imposed to 300,000 people.
Peace can never return to Palestine until and unless the international community along with Israel do enough to support the innocent Palestinians. Radical groups would take advantage of this poverty and use children for their own purposes. Furthermore children cannot be denied normal lives for dubious political ambitions.
Severe food insecurity in the Gaza Strip is leading young children to steal and work in hazardous conditions for a meagre pay. According to the World Bank, the economic stagnation of the Gaza Strip does not augur well for the whole Palestinian region. Gaza represents about 40 percent of the Palestinian population and is an integral part of the Palestinian economy and identity.
As a result nothing could be achieved by sidelining Gaza in the name of Hamas. The bank also warns that the anarchy in the region is having a profound impact on the younger generations who are sometimes being forced to look for work irrespective of the age.