- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

JERUSALEM The World Bank and the United Nations yesterday denounced Israel's economic and military attacks on Palestinian-controlled towns and cities, saying the assaults have damaged water systems, roads and schools built with donor money.
But the costs of physical damages estimated yesterday in excess of $400 million since September 2000 are "quite small" compared with the human and economic toll of Israel's 18-month-old economic isolation of the Palestian people, senior officials of both organizations said.
"We are very disturbed by the life-threatening conditions under which the Palestinian civilian population is currently living, as well as the continuous deconstruction of the Palestinian economy over the past 18 months," U.N. Special Coordinator Terje Roed-Larsen and Nigel Roberts, the head of the World Bank programs in Gaza and the West Bank, said in a joint statement to reporters.
"The damage to livelihoods, infrastructure and organizational capacity runs counter to any serious pursuit of peace and security," they said.
The two officials spoke in Jerusalem on the seventh day of Israel's assault on Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Their remarks came amid new fighting.
Israeli tanks in a half-dozen Palestinian cities have ripped up electrical lines, punctured water mains and destroyed roads, houses and other buildings.
More than 80 percent of the population is affected, say Palestinian advocates here.
In Ramallah, where Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat gave a television interview by flashlight, residents trade candles for canned goods.
In Bethlehem, women haul plastic pails and barrels to rooftops to collect rainwater.
And in a southern suburb of Nablus, a Palestinian translator named Imad is following the news of the Israeli siege with a battery-powered radio.
"There is bombing and shooting everywhere," he said last night by cell phone, "but of course we have no television, no Internet "
He said Israeli troops were expected to enter the city center at any moment and he feared resistance and heavy casualties.
In the last decade, international donors have given $4.3 billion to create a civilian infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Millions more have been invested through non-U.N.-related organizations, such as religious charities and nongovernmental organizations.
"The money has mainly gone towards building viable institutions, and for the infrastructure of peace to roads, water systems, electricity networks, schools and hospitals assets that are now being damaged or destroyed," said the World Bank's Mr. Roberts.
The destruction of these assets "is a matter of tremendous concern to the international community," he said.
Both Mr. Roberts and Mr. Roed-Larsen said it was impossible to assess how much damage had been done in the last week of heavy fighting, or how much it would cost to rebuild.
But they warned that the Palestinian economy and authority had disintegrated after a year and a half of enforced isolation by Israel.

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