West pledges £80m to ease Gaza crisis

Western countries are trying to prevent the further collapse of the economy of Gaza as a result of the Israeli closure of the border. At a meeting in Paris yesterday aid donors agreed to give more than $130m (£80m) to fund Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority until the end of the year and Israel promised to make it easier for goods to be moved in and out of Gaza.

Aid officials say that the present economic crisis in Gaza is far worse than anything seen before, because Israel is allowing almost no goods in or out of the Palestinian enclave.

In the past, Israel has largely used border closures to prevent some 20,000 Palestinians working in Israel, but the refusal to allow trucks in or out has thrown a further 30,000 to 50,000 Gazans out of work.

"All infrastructural projects like roads and sewers being funded by the international donors have stopped in recent weeks because you cannot bring cement into Gaza," one senior aid official said. Fruit has rotted on trucks waiting to pass through the Erez checkpoint into Israel. A box of tomatoes costs about three sheckels (65p) in a shop in Gaza because it can no longer be sold in Israel.

Israel refused yesterday to lift the closure imposed after the Beit Lid bombing in January, which killed 21 Israelis, but said it would build two large cargo terminals to make it easier to move goods.

Western countries giving financial aid to Gaza feel that their efforts to improve the standard of living of people in the enclave are undermined by what amounts to an Israeli economic siege. An aid official said yesterday: "You can't have 40-50 per cent unemployment and not call it economic collapse."

Palestinians see the Israeli closure as collective punishment, whereas the Israelis see it as a commonsense method of stopping suicide bombers. Ironically, one result of the closure is to force the poorest Gazans to rely on the charity of Islamic associations established by the fundamentalist movement Hamas. In the offices of one association in Gaza city this week Muen Rajit, 46, explained: "I have to get support. I have nine children, my leg is crippled and I can't work. I get 100 sheckels as well as rice, meat sugar and flour."

The desperate economic situation in Gaza and the West Bank was emphasised to the Israeli cabinet by the army Chief of Staff, Amnon Shahak, who said unemployment in the West Bank was 50 per cent, and about 60 per cent in Gaza.

This in turn weakens the Palestinian Authority. "The economic situation in Gaza was better before May, 1994 [when the authority was set up]," said Khalid Salaam, economic adviser to Yasser Arafat. "So peace is delivering nothing to the people."

Further disillusionment with the Oslo peace accord among Palestinians is likely to follow Israel's announcement yesterday that it would confiscate Arab land for Jewish housing and a police station in east Jerusalem. Mr Arafat said: "They are daily breaching what had been agreed upon and this confiscation of land is one of these violations."

Israel said a total of 133 acres of land would be confiscated in two different parts of Arab east Jerusalem. The decision also drew criticism from members of the Israeli government.

"We continue to take and take, while the wounds from the earlier expropriations haven't healed," said the Israeli Communications Minister, Shulamit Aloni. "This is a political message the government cannot afford to send," she told Israel Radio.

Khalil Tawfakji, a Palestinian expert monitoring land seizures, said this was the first time since Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 that officials said outright their intention was to build a new Jewish neighbourhood. "In the past they always said the expropriation was for public purposes without giving details."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world