UN: Israel's Tightened Security Exacting Heavy Humanitarian Toll

Report cites PA losses from closure of Karni crossing, warns nonpayment of funds endangers collapse of PA.

Israel's tightening of security procedures has exacted a heavy humanitarian toll in the territories since the Palestinian parliamentary elections last month, according to a United Nations report obtained by Haaretz on Monday.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also warns that Jerusalem's withholding of VAT and customs funds intended for the Palestinian Authority would place the PA in danger of collapse, limiting its ability to provide basic services such as health, education, water and electricity, sewage and garbage collection, and policing to the population in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The non-payment of salaries to [the PA's] 73,000 security staff could risk a rise in criminality, kidnapping and protection racket," the report said. "Dependence on PA salaries is greatest in some of the poorest governorates, including Jenin, Tul Karm, Qalqilya, Tubas, Salfit, and the Gaza Strip."

Israel's three-week closure of the Karni crossing, the primary artery used to transport commercial supplies to and from the Gaza Strip, resulted in an estimated loss of $10.5 million, the agency said.

The UN says the closure of Karni forced the Palestinians to shut down all Gaza Strip flour mills and, as a consequence, led to the depletion of wheat grain stocks.

The report also accused Israel of "accelerating its plan to separate Palestinian and Israeli road systems within the West Bank" through a combined use of checkpoints, selective issuing of movement permits, and other road barriers. The UN says the Israel Defense Forces have erected more "physical obstacles" in the territories. The current number of checkpoints and roadblocks stands at 471, a 25 percent increase since August 2005.

The report predicts dire consequences should Israel carry out its threat to cease the transfer of tax revenue to the PA. Due to the bloated public sector in the territories, non-payment of salaries would leave over 150,000 Palestinians - wage-earners which the UN estimates support 25 percent of the total Palestinian population - unemployed. As such, the poverty level in the territories, which currently stands at 64 percent, would rise even further.

"Before the intifada, a PA salary was considered one of the lowest in the territories," the report states. "It is now considered comparatively high."