Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.

“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.

In the West Bank, tougher restrictions have been applied on Palestinians working inside Israel where only those above the age of 40 years with at least two children have been allowed to obtain work permits in Israel. These changes are in addition to the closure of the West Bank and the spreading Israeli checkpoints.

“Those procedures have left the Palestinian youth in the West Bank with no job opportunities and no hope of a better future,” she said.

The West Bank has been badly affected by the West Bank Wall with poverty levels in Hebron and other Palestinian cities in the West Bank such as Jenin and Qalqilia increasing.

Thousands of Palestinian families have been approaching the Ministry of Social Affairs applying for financial assistance. Ministerial social inspectors pay regular visits to these families to assess whether they are in need of aid.

A ministerial social inspector has complained about the increasing number of aid requests filed by Palestinian families in both Gaza and the West Bank.

“Despite the strict measures the inspectors apply in judging the individual cases, almost all the cases should be approved as the families stand in need for financial assistance,” a ministerial inspector told Gulf News.

The inspector said that Palestinian youth prefer travelling abroad to staying jobless in Palestine.

Al Khozendar said that among 1,001,569 Gaza residents in five governorates, a total of 11,626 families receive regular financial assistance from the ministry.