With its economy in freefall and tensions rising with Israel, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is imploding, the UN envoy to the region warned on Thursday.
Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council a day after a Palestinian rocket slammed into a home in the city of Beersheba and Israeli warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip in retaliation.
“Gaza is imploding. This is not hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality,” Mladenov told the council.
He cited World Bank figures showing official unemployment at 53 percent, with more than 70 percent of Palestinian youths jobless.
Every second person in Gaza now lives below the poverty line, he said.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for a decade, on Thursday pledged to launch an investigation into the rocket fire after denying any involvement in the attack, but Israel rejected the denials. At the same time, the Palestinian terror group’s military wing released a video warning Israeli leaders against making a “mistake.”
“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” said Mladenov.
The United Nations has made some headway in joint efforts with Egypt to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but Mladenov warned this could collapse.
“Barring substantial steps to reverse the current course, this precarious sense of calm is doomed to give way under the mounting pressure. It is already beginning to fray,” he said.
He condemned the recent launching of rockets, one of which struck a home in the southern city of Beersheba and the other landed off the coast of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
“They also fit a pattern of provocations that seek to bring Israel and Gaza into another deadly conflict,” Mladenov said. “It is our responsibility to do everything possible to avoid that outcome.”
Hamas and Israel have fought three wars in Gaza since 2008.
The Security Council session addressed by Mladenov also featured a controversial appearance by the head of a large Israeli human rights group, who criticized the Jewish state’s policies and clashed with its ambassador to the international body.