World Bulletin / News Desk
The Gaza Strip has incurred $500 million in losses since the Egyptian army launched a crackdown on a network of smuggling tunnels on the borders between the isolated Palestinian enclave and Egypt, a new study has concluded.
"Losses incurred by the Gaza Strip have proved catastrophic and unprecedented in scale," economist Maher al-Tabaa, the study's author, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
The study concluded that the closure of the underground tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip had brought economic activities to a standstill.
According to the study, the strip's gross domestic product (GDP) has dropped by 60 percent in the past five and half months.
It added that Gaza's construction sector, which relies heavily on construction materials smuggled via the underground tunnels, had come to a total halt.
The construction field is the biggest labor-absorbing sectors in Gaza and contributes about 27 percent of the strip's GDP (nearly $135 million).
The Egyptian military destroyed scores of tunnels along the border with Gaza following the July 3 ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi.
Relations between Hamas – which governs the Gaza Strip – and Egypt's new military-backed rulers have deteriorated had also deteriorated since the overthrow of Morsi, a leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian media accuses Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Brotherhood, of interfering in Egypt's internal affairs and supporting the Brotherhood in its ongoing faceoff with the army-installed interim administration.
Hamas has repeatedly denied both accusations.
Estimates show that unemployment rates have skyrocketed in Gaza to reach 32.5 percent in the third quarter of 2013.
"The unemployment rates are expected to hit 40 percent in the fourth quarter of the year," said al-Tabaa, the study's author.
The Gaza Strip, home to nearly two million Palestinians, has been reeling under a chocking Israeli blockade since 2006.
"This is the worst siege the world had seen and must be lifted to help revive the Gaza economy," stressed the economist.
"The current economic catastrophe has affected almost all aspects of daily life in the Gaza Strip."
Mohamed Hasanah, coordinator for the Organization of Islamic Organization (OIC), told AA that nearly 90 percent of infrastructure projects in Gaza had been halted.
According to an OIC study, between 70-80 percent of Gaza fishermen and about 80 percent of drivers have been driven jobless by an acute fuel shortage.
It concluded that access to potable water had been reduced by 40 percent with more than 57 of the strip's inhabitants in need for food supplies.
"The closure of the tunnels has led to a total collapse in all economic sectors in Gaza," Hasanah lamented.
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