BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces have killed nearly 2,300 Palestinians and injured 7,700 in Gaza over the last five years, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Thursday.
Some 27 percent of the fatalities in Gaza were women and children, the UN agency said in a report highlighting the effects of Israel's blockade.
The land, sea and air blockade of Gaza entered its sixth year on Thursday.
Under the blockade, exports have dropped to less than 3 percent of 2006 levels.
"The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment,
food insecurity and aid dependency," UNOCHA said.
Israel's naval blockade has undermined the livelihood of 35,000 fishermen, and farmers have lost around 75,000 tons of produce each year due to Israeli restrictions along Gaza's land border, it added.
Meanwhile, Israeli restrictions on imports have led to the growth of the smuggling trade. At least 172 Palestinians have been killed working in tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt, the report said.
Despite the risks, young men are still drawn to tunnel work in Gaza, where more than half the youth is unemployed and 44 percent of people are food insecure.
Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that the blockade was necessary because Gaza's ruling party Hamas is a "terrorist organization."
"All cargo going into Gaza must be checked because Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization," Regev told Reuters in response to a petition by 50 aid groups, including six UN agencies, calling on Israel to lift the blockade.