One More Casualty: Syrian Conflict Dries Up Funds For Gaza Strip

 @JaceyFortin
on June 14 2013 5:46 AM

The embattled Gaza Strip has suffered a loss of foreign aid due to the Syrian conflict, exacerbating the poverty that has long plagued this densely populated coastal strip of the Palestinian territories.

The Syrian conflict has already had a ripple effect across the Middle East, worsening instabilities in Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries. Now Gaza, where at least one-third of all households are living in poverty and unemployment is above 35 percent, is feeling the pinch of decreased international assistance.
 
A United Nations report last year predicted that Gaza might be unlivable by 2020, given the rapid population growth and lack of infrastructure. The study shined a light on an increasingly desperate situation in the embattled strip of coastal land, but the Syrian conflict -- which has killed at least 93,000 people and displaced millions more since March 2011 -- has diverted attention and funds away from Gaza.
 
The Associated Press reported Thursday that an influx of more than 1,500 Syrian refugees has also worsened economic problems in the Gaza Strip. On top of that, the territory's relationship with Iran, a major benefactor, cooled after Hamas, the militant organization and political bloc that governs Gaza, refused to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which is closely allied to Tehran.
 
Hamas has a long history as a pariah to the West. Its leaders have called for the destruction of Israel, and its militants have launched rocket attacks onto Israeli territory for years. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union.
 
Gaza officials have enemies within the Palestinian territories as well. Fatah, the secular nationalist party that controls the West Bank, has been unable to reconcile itself with Hamas since 2006, when the militant bloc swept general Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas is lauded by many Palestinians for defending Arab interests in the region.
 
But the 1.7 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are in increasingly dire straits as the Syrian conflict continues. One woman in Gaza City told the Associated Press that donations to her orphanage are already down 50 percent.
 
"All of Gaza is suffering from this," she said.

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