The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said on Monday that 242 refugee families in the Gaza Strip received more than $1.7 million in aid for reconstruction and repair works, more than two years after the besieged coastal enclave was devastated by an Israeli aerial offensive.
The UN agency disbursed more than $951,000 towards reconstruction, and more than $759,000 for “severe repair works” to the 242 families, who “were able to access their assistance this week,” according to the statement.
Meanwhile, despite a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 war, the Israeli army has continued to launch airstrikes and shelling in Gaza, while also regularly opening fire on unarmed Palestinian farmers and fishermen, as well as at demonstrators during weekly protests held near the border. At least 29 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since a wave of violence erupted last October — the majority of whom were shot dead during protests.
Last week, the director of operations for UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, Bo Schack, warned of increasing desperation, frustration, and the absence of opportunities in the small Palestinian territory, which coincided with a $70-million budget deficit for UNRWA.
In spite of severe funding shortages, Schack said that the international organization hadn’t reduced its services to Palestinian refugees.
He highlighted that the ongoing Israeli blockade and restrictions on movement were preventing improvements in the Gaza Strip, mentioning that “Israel hasn’t yet approved a list of names of Gaza citizens submitted in May 2015 whose houses have been damaged during Israeli military offensives and need construction.”
The near decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into extreme poverty, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
Gaza’s infrastructure has yet to recover from the devastation of three Israeli offensives over the past six years. The slow and sometimes stagnant reconstruction of the besieged coastal enclave has only been worsened by the blockade, leading the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
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