The Gaza Strip will soon become entirely dependent on foreign aid and face "disastrous consequences" if the Hamas-run territory remains sealed off, the UN warned.
A Palestinian business group, meanwhile, estimated Thursday that at least 120,000 Gazans could lose their jobs if the closure continues.
Israel and Egypt closed their crossings with Gaza to all after the Hamas seized power in the coastal strip in June, exacerbating the poverty among the 1.4 million residents.
The blockade has put Gaza's fragile economy in danger and the window of opportunity for addressing the crisis "is small and fast closing," said Filippo Grandi, the deputy head of UN Relief and Works Agency, the international body responsible for Palestinian refugees.
"Gaza risks becoming a virtually 100 percent aid-dependent, closed-down and isolated community within a matter of months or weeks, if the present regime of closure continues," Grandi said at a news conference.
He appealed to "the Palestinian Authority, Israel and all other parties" to open the crossings, saying failure to do so would lead to "disastrous consequences, an atmosphere of hopelessness and despair".
Even before Hamas' takeover, 1.1 million Gazans received foreign food assistance, a figure that rose sharply as a result of Israeli trade restrictions and an international aid embargo imposed after Hamas won 2006 elections.
Separately, the Association of Palestinian Businessmen reported that cumulative losses to industry in Gaza had reached $23 million (Ð16.75 million) since the Hamas takeover. If the closure continues, at least 120,000 could lose their jobs, the association predicted.
Two weeks ago, the Palestinian Federation of Industries reported that the closure of Gaza had forced the dismissal of about 70,000 of 120,000 private sector workers, driving unemployment above 40 percent.
Last Mod: 10 Ağustos 2007, 13:05