UN: 80 percent of Gazans depend on aid
A boy in the Gaza Strip, file photo
The UN has expressed concern that more than 80 percent of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip depend on relief supplies for their survival.
On Tuesday, the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, John Ging, said, "The plight of the people is still desperate," dpa reported.
"…we are still at the bottom of the ladder," he added.
Gaza has endured more than three years under an all-out Tel Aviv-imposed siege, which has deprived the people of the impoverished coastal sliver of food, fuel and other necessities.
The official said the situation has not improved since May 31, when Israeli commandos carried out an attack on Freedom Flotilla -- a Gaza-bound aid convoy that was attacked by Israeli forces.
The fleet was carrying approximately 750 human rights activists and around 10,000 tons of construction material, medical equipment and school supplies, which were diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod in the south of Tel Aviv. The assault in international waters killed nine Turkish activists and injured about 50 others, prompting international outcry.
The unyielding embargo persists while Gaza is far from recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting a damage of above $1.6 billion on the enclave's economy.
Israeli military forces, meanwhile, regularly open fire on Gazans who resort to collecting and selling rubble to be able to cope with the dire circumstances.
Five Palestinian workers were shot and taken to hospital on Tuesday, after Israeli forces opened fire on the group in what the injured said appeared to be a rapid succession of sniper attacks.
The men said they were collecting stone aggregates in the northern Gaza Strip near the evacuated Israeli settlement of Eli Sinai north of Beit Lahiya when the incident occurred.
Medics said ambulances could not reach the area, so the men were first evacuated by donkey cart until they were safely out of Israel's unilaterally imposed "no-go-zone" which officials say is kept clear because it is an area where attacks are launched against Israel. The lands in the zone constitute some 20 percent of arable farm lands in the Strip.
The men were transferred to Red Crescent ambulances when they were clear of the firing area, and admitted to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Jabaliya.
With the latest round of injuries, the number of workers shot by Israeli forces rose to 12 in the previous 48 hours.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers first fired warning shots toward the group, then fired toward their lower bodies. She added that protocol dictates that the warning shots be fired with a sufficient interval for individuals in the no-go zone to leave the area. Soldiers confirmed three direct hits, she said.