(Reuters) - Life was harsh in the Gaza Strip even before Israel’s assault on its Hamas Islamist rulers, in which at least 984 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 wounded.
Here are some facts about living conditions for Gazans, who face an uncertain future when the offensive, which Israel says aims to stop Hamas rocket attacks, is over.
* 1.5 million Palestinians live in the 360 square km (139 square mile) Gaza Strip. More than three-quarters of them are refugees whose families fled or were driven from their land in what is now Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
* Egypt captured the strip during that conflict, but lost it to Israel in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew unilaterally in 2005, but kept control of access to and from the coastal enclave.
* Gaza has one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations. About 45 percent are children aged below 15. The median age is 17.2 years. At the present growth rate of 3.42 percent, the population would double in 20 years.
* An Israeli blockade and international sanctions since Hamas won a Palestinian election in 2006 have crippled Gaza’s economy, especially after Hamas seized control of the territory from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007.
* Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day and up to 80 percent are dependent on food aid, according to aid groups.
* Israel’s ban on exports and on all but humanitarian imports has forced 98 percent of Gaza’s industry to close. The World Bank estimates unemployment at 35 percent.
* The war has put more pressure on already stressed services. Casualties have overwhelmed hospitals and rescue teams. Food, cooking gas, fuel, electricity and running water are scarce. Last week the World Bank said nearly all sewage and water pumps had stopped working due to fuel and power shortages.