Unprecedented destruction in Gaza will take decades to reverse: UN

Yasmine Osama Farag , Thursday 1 Feb 2024

As the Israeli war on Gaza approaches its 200th day, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighted the "unprecedented scale of death and destruction" since 7 October, painting a daunting picture of the rebuilding challenges ahead.

An Israeli battle tank is deployed in a position as displaced Palestinians flee from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 30, 2024. AFP


In a report on the economic impact of the destruction in Gaza, UNCTAD revealed that as a result of the Israeli military attacks, economic activity across all productive sectors in Gaza ground to a halt, except for minimum health and food services provided under conditions of severe water, fuel, and electricity shortages.

The occupation army operation has displaced 85 percent of Gaza's population, further worsening poverty and unemployment, the report said.

UNCTAD estimates that Gaza’s economy had already contracted by 4.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2023.

However, the Israeli war accelerated this decline, resulting in a 24 percent contraction of GDP and a 26.1 percent drop in GDP per capita for the entire year.

As of December 2023, unemployment had surged to 79.3 percent. Meanwhile, 37,379 buildings – equivalent to 18 percent of Gaza Strip's total structures – have been damaged or destroyed by the Israeli strikes.

The Gaza Strip, half of whose population are children, is now rendered almost uninhabitable, with people lacking adequate sources of income and access to water, sanitation, health, or education, according to the report.

Socioeconomic conditions in Gaza were dire in 2022 and in the first half of 2023, with over two million Gazans confined to one of the most densely populated spaces in the world, suffering inadequate access to basic needs of living.

Two-thirds of the population lived in poverty, and 45 percent of the workforce was unemployed before the beginning of the latest military operation.

The UN body explained that if the current war were to end immediately with reconstruction starting right away, it would take Gaza until 2029 just to restore the GDP levels of 2022.

However, even with the most optimistic scenario that GDP could grow at 10 percent annually, it would still take Gaza’s GDP per capita until 2035 to return to its pre-blockade level of 2006.  

It stated that the recovery of Gaza's economy will demand a financial commitment several times more than the $3.9 billion that resulted from the 2014 war on Gaza and will require a concerted international effort to restore pre-conflict socioeconomic conditions.

UNCTAD confirmed in its report that Gaza's economic constraints are rooted in 56 years of Israeli occupation and a 17-year blockade.

It underscored that the resolution of Gaza's crises requires ending the current war and lifting the Israeli blockade as a pivotal step towards realizing a two-state solution along the 1967 borders, in line with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

The report highlighted the massive death toll in Gaza, saying that it currently stands at more than four times the combined toll of all past Israeli wars on Gaza since 2007.

It added that the number of children reportedly killed in a little over the first three weeks of bombing in Gaza has exceeded the combined total number of children killed in armed conflicts in more than 22 countries since 2019.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by 28 January 2024, Israeli forces and terrorist settlers killed at least 362 Palestinians and injured 4,366 since 7 October 2023. The 507 Palestinians killed in the West Bank in 2023 marked the highest number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank since the UN started recording casualties in 2005


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