Israel's blockade of Gaza is pushing the territory to the brink of collapse and fuelling the growth of a black money market controlled by Hamas, the World Bank warned yesterday.
As tit-for-tat attacks across the Gaza border began to intensify following the end of a six-month truce on Friday, the World Bank said that an acute cash shortage in Gaza was playing into Hamas's hands. The militant Islamists, who took control of Gaza in June 2007 following violent street clashes with their more secular rival, Fatah, have large stashes of shekels which they have been selling on the black market at a premium because of the cash shortage.
There is also a worry that Hamas, with its dominant militant and bureaucratic control of Gaza, will begin to replace the shekel with US dollars, which are more easily obtained, to smuggle through the tunnels from Egypt in the south.
The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Quartet - the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations - warned Israel of the crisis in a letter to the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, more than a week ago, to no avail. Instead, Israel continued to tighten its 18-month blockade of the tiny coastal territory, forcing banks and businesses to shut their doors, water, sanitation and electricity services to cease, medical clinics to turn away patients, and bread queues to form in the streets. Since the end of the truce, daily clashes have resumed, with Israel launching air strikes on Palestinian rocket-launching teams and Palestinian fighters firing makeshift rockets and mortars at neighbouring Israeli towns.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Gaza near to collapse as Israel tightens grip, says bank
From the Guardian: