UN envoy warns Gaza is imploding

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Relatives of Palestinian Naji Al-Za’aneen, 25, mourn during his funeral in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. — AFP

NEW YORK — With its economy in a free-fall and tensions rising with Israel, the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza is imploding, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned Thursday.

Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council a day after Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation at rocket firings from the Palestinian territory.

“Gaza is imploding. This is not hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality,” Mladenov told the council.

He cited World Bank figures showing official unemployment at 53 percent, with more than 70 percent of Palestinian youths jobless.

Every second person in Gaza now lives below the poverty line, he said.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for a decade, on Thursday pledged to launch an investigation into the rocket fire after denying any involvement in the attack, but Israel rejected the denials.

“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” said Mladenov.

The United Nations has made some headway in joint efforts with Egypt to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but Mladenov warned this could collapse.

“Barring substantial steps to reverse the current course, this precarious sense of calm is doomed to give way under the mounting pressure. It is already beginning to fray,” he said.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008. — AFP


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