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US announces $50 million aid program for Gaza Strip

Five-year plan aims to provide basic humanitarian assistance and create jobs in enclave where unemployment is 40%

Palestinian children play in the rubble of buildings, reportedly destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014, in Gaza City on July 21, 2015. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Palestinian children play in the rubble of buildings, reportedly destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014, in Gaza City on July 21, 2015. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)

The United States has announced a $50 million aid program for the Gaza Strip.

US officials said Monday that the money will be used over five years to provide basic humanitarian assistance and create jobs. The money will be distributed by the US Agency for International Development in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.

The US Consul General in Jerusalem, Donald A. Blume, said the effort is meant to address “the dire needs that are obvious in Gaza.”

Gaza’s economy has sharply declined since the Islamist Hamas organization took over the coastal territory nearly a decade ago. Unemployment there is estimated to be over 40 percent.

The US, like Israel, views Hamas as a terrorist organization, and has no official relations with the group.

Ruins of a building that was destroyed in the 2014 Gaza war, in Gaza City, on February 16, 2016. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Ruins of a building that was destroyed in the 2014 Gaza war, in Gaza City, on February 16, 2016. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)

Former director Shin Bet director Yaakov Peri urged Israel on Saturday to take steps to alleviate the economic problems in the Gaza Strip, alongside military measures to counter efforts by Hamas to build attack tunnels into Israel.

“Israel would do well if, in addition to the operational activities against the tunnels, it worked to alleviate the economic situation and show the residents of Gaza the prospect of an easier and more comfortable future,” said Yaakov Peri, an MK for Yesh Atid and member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Walla website reported.

Peri’s message appeared to contradict that of senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, who last month argued that Gaza’s economic woes are ultimately irrelevant to the current security situation.

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