Palestinian rights group decries 'surge' in Gaza suicide attempts

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At least 17 people have taken their own lives in the impoverished Gaza Strip this year and hundreds more have made suicide attempts, a Palestinian rights group said Monday.

Israel has imposed a stifling land, sea and air blockade on the for over a decade, after having withdrawn from the densely populated enclave in 2005.

"We have registered 17 suicides and hundreds of attempted suicides, namely among young people," since the start of the year, said Samir Zaqout, deputy director of the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

He told AFP that "extreme poverty", difficult living conditions and a lack of freedom of expression were all factors behind these suicides.

According to the United Nations, unemployment before the spread of the coronavirus stood at around 43 percent of Gaza's estimated two million inhabitants, while 80 percent depended on aid to survive.

The World Bank estimates that poverty affected 53 percent of Gazans before the pandemic and that the number could now reach 64 percent.

The impoverished territory has since 2007 been governed by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Hamas police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji contested the suicide data reported by Al Mezan.

"This year there have been 12 suicides in Gaza and that is less than the 32 cases which were reported in 2019," he told reporters.

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