TEL AVIV – The United Nations released a report Tuesday concluding that the Gaza Strip has become “unlivable” since the terror group Hamas seized the coastal enclave a decade ago, and that conditions are set to decline even further over the coming years.
The report, “Gaza – 1o Years On”, published by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), said living conditions in Gaza are deteriorating “further and faster” than the last investigation predicted, and that its 2 million residents are suffering from substadard healthcare, education, incomes and a dire lack of electricity and fresh water.
“Upon seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has increasingly tightened its grip on power, including by executing, maiming and jailing opponents and suppressing dissent,” the report’s introduction stated. “For years, Hamas was able to sustain its de facto authority and build up its military strength primarily through controlling the movement of goods smuggled through tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and taxing this trade, while the Palestinian Authority paid for essential services to Gaza residents, including some civil service salaries, electricity, water and medical care.”
The report also emphasized that attempts to end the rivalry between Hamas and the Fatah party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas — from which the Hamas terror group seized control of the Strip in 2007 — had all failed. “The key issues separating the factions have remained unchanged over the years, with continuing ideological differences, including over the recognition of the right of Israel to exist and the use of violence,” it stated.
An administrative committee set up by Hamas to run “governmental affairs” in Gaza earlier this year had only led to a “hardening of the divisions” between the two factions, the report said.
The report also highlighted Hamas’ track record of severe human rights violations, which include torture and executions.
“Hamas has committed human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly as well as a campaign of arbitrary arrests, harassment, torture that even lead to death in custody,” it said. “Certain associated armed groups, such as members of the Qassam Brigades, were also responsible for extrajudicial kidnappings, beatings and murders of political opponents.”
The report slammed Israel for what it called the “collective punishment” of Gaza’s population through the restrictions on movement in and out of the Strip, a measure that Israel says is necessary in preserving its national security since the coastal enclave is being run by a terror group that has proved itself as having no compunctions when it comes to endangering both Israel and its own population.
However, the report also acknowledged that Hamas’ longtime efforts at stockpiling weapons was a major factor in the restrictions on movement for civilians.
“A further impediment to access and movement has been the military build-up in Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups, which continued and intensified over the past decade, including the development, stockpiling and firing of rockets capable of reaching deep into Israel and the construction of sophisticated tunnels used for kidnappings and terrorist attacks in Israel,” it said.
Robert Piper, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities in what the UN defines as the “occupied Palestinian territories” and a frequent harsh critic of Israeli policies told Reuters that Gaza was “de-development” in action.
“I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually two million civilians in Gaza that really pose a threat to nobody,” said Piper.
Piper is known for making anti-Israel statements and accusing the country of violating Palestinian human rights.
However, in his foreword to Tuesday’s report, Piper did not assign the lion’s share of the blame to Israel, instead singling out the ruling Hamas party and its ongoing dispute with the Palestinian Authority.
He told Reuters the escalating boycotts facing Qatar – Hamas’ primary backer – were also impacting Gaza’s deterioration.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon responded to the UNSCO report saying it “proves without a doubt that the rule of Hamas terrorists over the past ten years has not only led to unending attacks on innocent Israelis, but has also brought nothing but pain and destruction to the residents of Gaza.”
“It is time for the UN to finally designate Hamas a terrorist organization and to demand that the Palestinian leadership abandon its support of incitement and terror,” Danon added.