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UN: Gaza in State of Physical, Psychological Collapse

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency says Gaza is in a state of physical and psychological collapse.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been going on for 30 months. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which cares for one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, says the territory is receiving only 20 percent of the goods it got before the blockade was imposed.

UNRWA says the ongoing blockade of Gaza's borders has caused the private sector to collapse and unemployment and poverty to rise to unprecedented levels.

The agency is renewing its appeal for $323 million to assist Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank throughout 2010. UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, John Ging, says $250 million of the appeal will be used to sustain basic subsistence levels in Gaza.

"Access to those billions that have been pledged, $4.5 billion were pledged in Sharm El-Sheik, will replace the need for much of the aid, the humanitarian assistance we now are appealing for because the recovery and reconstruction will generate tens of thousands of jobs," said Ging. "It will put the private sector back to work. Remember 100,000 have been made unemployed in this past two and a half years. And, the money will be, as I say, put to productive use," he said.

The United Nations reports the houses of 325,000 people were destroyed or damaged during the war that erupted between Israel and Hamas militants more than a year ago. An estimated 20,000 people continue to live in temporary housing.

Ging says Israel refuses to let cement, steel rods and other reconstruction material enter the Gaza Strip because it fears they would be used by Hamas to build bunkers.

He says the United Nations has presented a plan to the Israeli authorities to oversee the recovery and reconstruction of Gaza. He says U.N. agencies have the technical expertise and the capacity to get the work done and to make sure that none of the materials fall into the wrong hands.

"There is no point in just continuously saying hypothetically this might happen or that might happen or it might fall into the wrong hands or whatever. The bottom line is we have put forward our plans. We are ready to go," he declared. "Let us go on with it and the cement that comes to the United Nations to build a school, there will be a physical school at the end of this process or there will not. If there is a physical school, then we have done out job properly. If there is not, then we should be held accountable for that. That is what we now need to do," he said.

Ging says attitudes among the Palestinians will continue to harden and become more hostile if reconstruction cannot get underway. He warns this will be counterproductive to Israel's objective of achieving stability and security.

He appeals to the Israeli authorities to open the crossing points and allow essential supplies of food, water and medicines as well as shelter materials to flow freely into Gaza. He says this will greatly improve conditions for the Palestinians and ease tensions between them and the Israelis.