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Area C poverty 'worse than Gaza'

July 1, 2010 3:31 P.M. (Updated: July 5, 2010 4:49 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank have “plummeted into a humanitarian crisis worse than Gaza,” a report released Wednesday said.

The US-based Save The Children organization found that “thousands of children are going hungry and are vulnerable to killer diseases,” and that conditions for children have reached “crisis point.” Diarrhea – the biggest killer of children under five in the world, affects 44 percent of the area’s youth, according to the report.

Under zoning regulations established under the Oslo Accords, 60 percent of the West Bank is designated “Area C,” and falls under full Israeli civil and military control.

Israel refuses to allow the estimated 40,000 Palestinians living in the area to make “urgent repairs to their sewage systems, schools, homes or hospitals,” the report said.

West Bank worse than Gaza?

Palestinians in the West Bank are widely assumed to enjoy a higher standard of living than their counterparts in Gaza. However, the study found that families in "Area C" actually suffer the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, while tight restrictions imposed by Israel limit what aid agencies can do.

Calling for urgent action, the organization’s director said “Palestinian children cannot wait for the stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States to find solutions to this crisis.”

Israeli officials dispute the reports, pointing to increasing health standards they say are the result of easing military installations and efforts to improve the economy.

On Thursday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took more than 80 members of the diplomatic corps on a tour of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

During the tour, Ayalon gave a briefing to the diplomats on a recent cabinet decision to expand the scope of goods allowed into Gaza. "Our primary responsibility, as with any government, is the safety and security of our citizens. At the same time, we are seeing to the needs of the civilian population of Gaza."

"Our policy is to distinguish between Hamas and other terrorist organizations, who represent Iranian interests and occupy Gaza, and the civilian population," he said, and projects should be completed "while ensuring that Hamas will not expropriate cement and other building materials to reinforce their military positions."
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