The United Nations will ask donor countries to contribute a record $453 million (euro341 million) in aid to the Palestinians, whose economy has been devastated by international economic sanctions on the Hamas-led government, U.N. officials said Wednesday.

The huge aid request comes as poverty and unemployment have exploded throughout Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinian health and education systems have been badly weakened by the shortage of funds, the U.N. said.

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About three-quarters of the $453 million (euro341 million) being requested is earmarked for job creation, cash assistance and food aid, said David Shearer, head of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The U.N. is also asking for money to support the Palestinians health and education system.

The U.N. plans to officially launch its appeal Thursday.

Much of the damage to the Palestinian economy came from the international economic boycott that Israel and Western nations imposed on the Palestinian Authority after the radical Hamas group won January parliamentary elections. The financial boycott has left the Palestinian government unable to pay full salaries to its 165,000 workers, who make up the backbone of the Palestinian economy.

An international fund, established to bypass Hamas, has paid millions of dollars in salaries to some of the employees.

Israeli limits on exports from Gaza and increased restrictions on movement across the West Bank have also damaged the economy, Shearer said.

"Coming on top of the problems with access of movement, (the economic boycott) has had a massive impact on poverty levels within the West Bank and Gaza," he said. "About a million people who have depended on a PA salary earner cannot do that anymore."

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