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Human rights and aid organizations call for international action to end Gaza siege

February 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

A group of twenty-one aid and human rights organizations have called for serious international action to bring about “an immediate, unconditional and complete” lifting of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. In a report issued on 30th November entitled “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Siege”, the organizations said that the measures taken by the Israeli authorities to ease the blockade following severe international pressure “did not make any changes to the fate of the civilian population”.

The co-sponsors of the report, including Amnesty International, Oxfam, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Norwegian Council for Refugees, explained that “the international community has eased its pressure on Israel, but what was actually done to effectively ease the restrictions imposed on a million and a half million Palestinians on a daily basis is very tiny”.

The NGOs denounced the Israeli authorities for not speeding up the importation of building materials adequately since then, noting they had not noticed “any effect on exports” and had only observed a “little progress” with regard to the movement of people.

Materials intended for humanitarian projects, such as schools, health centres, houses and sewage plants, “did not enter in sufficient quantities” to have any real impact. The Israeli government has pledged to increase the import of construction materials which are badly needed for UN and other internationally-funded projects. To-date, the Israeli authorities have only agreed on the import of materials needed for the construction of 25 projects for UNRWA, mainly schools and clinics, which represent only seven per cent of the UN’s plans for the reconstruction of Gaza. Even those projects which have been approved have only received very limited amounts of the construction materials they need.

According to the UN, Gaza needs 670,000 trucks loaded with construction materials in order to repair what was destroyed during Israel’s invasion and war almost two years ago. Des[pite this, the Israelis only allowed 4,000 trucks to enter, which led to 40,000 Palestinian children being without a place in school at the start of the current academic year.

While imports are vital, the report also drew attention to the Israeli restrictions on exports, which is crippling Gaza’s industry and economy. Two-thirds of industrial companies in the Gaza Strip have now closed, while the remainder work at a fraction of their capacity.

According to the BBC, the Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, John Ging, has said that there had been “no materal change” for the people of Gaza. He described the Israelis’ measures as the “so-called easing” of the siege. He also accused Israel “of ignoring the demands of the international community to fully lift the blockade”.