Gaza economy is down as optimism to free Shalit, end blockade grows

09:09, October 02, 2009      

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A UN official on Thursday revealed that a tight Israeli blockade imposed on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for around three years has aggravated Gaza economy, as Palestinian optimism to release captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and end the bitter blockade have grown.

John Ging, United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) operation chief, told a news conference on Thursday that the ongoing Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip has aggravated the deteriorated economy of the poor enclave.

"The blockade aggravated the economy in the Gaza Strip, which is basically deteriorated, and has tripled the number of poor refugees in urgent need for UNRWA aid," said Ging.

After Gaza militants led by Hamas abducted the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit during a cross-border military attack southeast the Gaza Strip in June 2006, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel has tightened the blockade right after Hamas seized control of the enclave in June 2007.

"The number of poor cases that receive aid from UNRWA has increased from 100,000 to 320,000 over the past three years. This has doubled UNRWA's burden to support the population," Ging told reporters.

Israel, which closed all Gaza Strip crossings and only allowed limited amounts of humanitarian aids and fuels, insists that the blockade can only be eased when its captive soldier Shalit is released.

Indirect talks between Israel and Shalit's captors, mediated by Egypt and recently by Germany, has achieved a tangible progress, when both agreed on Wednesday to free 20 female prisoners from Israeli jails for handing a most recent one-minute tape showing Shalit alive.

"This is the first step towards finalizing the whole prisoners' swap deal with the Israeli occupation soon and consequently lifting the unfair siege imposed on the Gaza Strip that mounted the population's suffering," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas movement spokesman in Gaza.

He added that the Gaza Strip population are more optimistic now than before, to end the unfair Israeli siege "that had completely destroyed all aspects of life in Gaza."

Ging said that "the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is still deteriorating, where there are 80,000 refugee families (400,000 people) who applied to UNRWA asking for humanitarian aids."

Meanwhile, a well-informed source on Thursday revealed some of the content from the video tape showing the Israeli soldier's conditions at his captivity in the Gaza Strip.

The one-minute fresh recorded videotape of Shalit "was sent to Egypt on Monday with a Hamas delegation" which left Gaza for a meeting with Egyptian officials, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The Hamas source expected that the tape would be delivered to Israel and to Shalit's family on Thursday.

Earlier, German mediators have "shown the tape to Israeli negotiators," according to the source.

The video was shot two months ago "at a disclosed area in the Gaza Strip," the source said, adding that Shalit appears in the video, wearing civilian cloths in front of a big piece of cloth with Hamas military wing logo.

"The tape clearly shows that the captive soldier enjoys a good health and show no sign of wounds," the source said.

"The armed wing of Hamas movement, al-Qassam Brigades, is in charge of Shalit's detention and nobody of Hamas leaders knows the place where the soldier is locked," according to the source.

Source: Xinhua
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