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World Briefing / Gaza Strip

Poverty tripling, U.N. official says

October 02, 2009|Times Wire Reports

The number of Gazans living in abject poverty has tripled this year to 300,000, or one in five residents, the Gaza head of the U.N. agency helping Palestinians said.

Gaza's economy has foundered under an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

John Ging, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency's top official in Gaza, called the rise in the poverty rate a "predictable consequence" of the border blockade. U.N. staff members said it also reflects improved monitoring of the economic status of Palestinians.

The U.N. agency provides services, including emergency food rations, to 750,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million residents.

Israeli officials have said they fear that easing the blockade would benefit Hamas, and say they won't reopen the border crossings until the militant group releases an Israeli soldier captured more than three years ago. A first sign of progress toward a prisoner exchange emerged this week when Israel agreed to release 20 Palestinian women from its prisons in exchange for a recent video of the soldier.

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