Palestinian legislator Jamal Al-Khodari has pointed out to solidarity groups visiting the besieged Gaza Strip that one million Palestinians are now dependent on aid. Dr Al-Khodari, who also heads the Popular Committee Against the Siege, affirmed that Israel is responsible for the blockade that has been imposed on Gaza for the past seven years, against international law and conventions which ban collective punishment.
"Israel is an occupation force," said Al-Khodari. "It closes commercial border crossings and imposes an air, sea and land cordon; it restricts the flow of imports and exports; and it imposes restrictions on the movement of individuals."
Stressing the increasing dependency on food aid, he warned the international delegations about the rise of unemployment and poverty rates and the decline of individual incomes as a direct result of the siege. Nevertheless, the independent politician expressed his gratitude for the efforts exerted by civil society and NGOs to visit Gaza in support of the people of Palestine.
"For the siege to be lifted," he said, "all border crossings should be opened, with imports and exports passing through, and there should be safe passage for Palestinians to cross from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank." The international airport in Gaza, which was bombed by the Israelis before it could even open, should be rebuilt and in use, added Al-Khodari, and the Port of Gaza should be developed to stimulate the economy. "All of this requires international pressure to be brought to bear on the Israelis to end the siege."