UN official to JPost: Lift blockade, reconnect Gaza to the world

No major rehabilitation has been done since the end of Operation Protective Edge, says UNCTAD coordinator of assistance to the development of Palestinians.

UN Coordinator to Jpost: Lift blockade, reconnect Gaza Strip to the world‏
A senior UN economist defended in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday a report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), claiming the Gaza Strip may be uninhabitable by the year 2020.
The report claims that the continued Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave coupled by further damage to  vital infrastructure in military conflicts, could leave the Gaza Strip in a crippled economic state.
"The economy is underground and unsustainable,"  UNCTAD coordinator for assistance to the development of Palestinians, Mahmud Elkafif, told The Jerusalem Post.
"What has been done," he said in reference to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, "is an incorrect way to correct an incorrect situation."
The Gaza Strip, home to nearly 1.8 million Palestinians has suffered a 15% drop in its GDP, the first economic downturn since 2006, claims the report.
"In addition to eight years of economic blockade, in the past six years, Gaza has endured three military operations that have shattered its ability to export and produce for the domestic market, ravaged its already debilitated infrastructure, left no time for reconstruction and economic recovery, and accelerated the de-development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed," the report charges.
"The situation in Gaza is unsustainable from a socioeconomic point of view and it can fire back at any point of time," said Elkafif.
"Our recommendation for the overall solution is to lift the blockade in Gaza from all sides and reactivate the Movement and Axis Agreement which was signed in 2005, he explained.
The agreement "called to reconnect Gaza with the West Bank and the rest of the world and to construct a seaport in Gaza and to start negotiations on establishing or constructing an airport in Gaza," he said.
UNCTAD argues that support from donors is important for Gaza's recovery and reconstruction, but will not reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment in Gaza if Israel's blockade of the Strip is not ended.
"Since 2014 no major reconstruction has been done. No major rehabilitation has been done. Only minor things," Elkafif emphasized.
If the blockade is not lifted and Gaza is not given the opportunity to rebuild, "I think the situation will be even worse than what the UN has forecasted for 2020," he predicted.
Both Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the Gaza Strip, whose Hamas leadership they deem a terrorist organization. When asked whether the Egyptian blockade was taken into account in UNCTAD's research, the project coordinator asked, "What Egyptian blockade?"
The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency on Tuesday that Hamas is seizing construction imports to the Gaza Strip and using the materials to build tunnels to attack Israel.
In an interview with the agency, Mordechai said that Hamas is seizing quantities of wood and other materials, designed for civilian construction projects in the Strip.
He accused the terrorists of delaying Gaza’s recovery from last year’s 50-day war with Israel.
“Hamas operatives have forcefully taken over storage facilities housing construction imports, and seized them for the organization’s underground infrastructure,” Mordechai told Ma’an.
Elkafif declined to comment on these accusations but claimed that only limited aid had been delivered to Gaza since Operation Protective Edge reached its end in August 2014.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.