Israel's military assault on Gaza Strip has destroyed at least $1.4 billion worth of buildings, roads, pipes, power lines and other infrastructure, Palestinian surveyors estimate. An aide to President Abbas estimated the damage at US$2 billion.
According to the AP, the Israeli military said it has bombed over 2,500 Hamas-linked targets since Dec. 27, including 250 tunnels.
During the past 20 days, over 25,000 residents have been displaced. Power cuts are widespread and at least 250,000 Gazans have been without electricity since Israel launched its offensive. Sewage levels are rising precariously in rickety reservoirs.
Even before the fighting, the blockade was pushing Gaza close to the edge. Unemployment had risen to nearly 50 percent, with an Israeli export ban forcing virtually all of the Strip's 3,900 manufacturers to shut down, the U.N. said in December. It is estimated that the unemployment will rise to over 60 percent as many commercial facilities were hit by Israeli bombs.
"It was bad before, it's worse now, and it's not getting any better," said Maxwell Gaylard, the U.N. humanitarian affairs coordinator for the Palestinian territories. "Civilians are bearing the brunt of this destruction of homes and infrastructure."
Palestinian economists say a renewed blockade after the fighting ends is unthinkable. "A continuation of the closure means the final death blow to Gaza," said economist Mohammad Shtayyeh, who runs a Palestinian economic development council that serves as a liaison between the Abbas government and donor countries.
Shtayyeh's council and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics have begun a first tally. Based on reports from 56 engineers, the development council said the fighting caused about $1.7 billion in damage in the first 15 days. This includes $300 million in damage in the southern district of Rafah, on Gaza's border with Egypt, hard hit by bombings because of the smuggling tunnels there, Shtayyeh said. About $135 million was in damage to houses and $35 million to infrastructure, he said.
The statistics bureau reported $976 million in damage and $408 million in lost trade, wages and other income in the first 17 days of the Israeli assault. About 4,000 houses were destroyed and 16,000 damaged, said director Luay Shabaneh. According to him, 30 Hamas security compounds, 15 government ministries and the main government complex were demolished.
Earlier this week, Hamas' Cabinet secretary general, Mohammed Awad, told the movement's Al Aqsa TV that some 1,000 residential buildings had been destroyed, and 25,000 damaged.