UN asks for record $450m. in aid for Palestinians

UN aid groups are asking for a record $450 million (€339 million) to staunch a deepening Palestinian humanitarian crisis, saying that international sanctions on the Hamas-led government and Israeli restrictions on Gaza exports have devastated the Palestinian economy. Despite that gloomy assessment, a top Hamas government minister offered a rare upbeat economic picture Wednesday, saying increased aid from Arab countries had allowed the government to stay afloat. But independent economists and analysts said the government was still deep in crisis. The United Nations' huge aid appeal came as poverty exploded throughout Gaza and the West Bank. The UN will officially launch its appeal Thursday, but The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the report. According to the UN, 65 percent of Palestinians were living in poverty and 29 percent were unemployed. The Palestinian health care system was running out of medicine and on the verge of collapse, and nearly 50 percent of Palestinians did not have reliable access to food. "Under the current circumstances, poverty levels keep continuing to rise," said David Shearer, Gaza and West Bank head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.