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News, March 2008


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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

Conditions in besieged Gaza Strip worse than any time since 1967, aid groups say

Date: 06 / 03 / 2008  Time:  09:08
Bethlehem – Ma’an –

The economic and humanitarian situation of the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip is worse now that has ever been since the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967, a new report by coalition of eight British development and human rights organizations says.

“The severity of the situation in Gaza,” the report says, “has increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on the movement of goods and people in response to the Hamas take over of Gaza and to indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel.”

Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Care International, and other groups signed on to the document, which paints a picture of unprecedented misery in the Strip.

The report measures the severity of the overall crisis by looking at the number of people reliant on humanitarian aid—80%, compared to 63% in 2006. This change indicates a sharp increase in the number of people who, unable to afford basic food, are living in “absolute poverty.”

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip is expected to rise to 50%, and 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations are suspended due to the Israeli blockade. “The Gaza economy is no longer on the brink of collapse—it has collapsed,” the report says.

What makes the present siege worse than previous closures, during the first and second Intifadas, and during the bombings of the mid-1990s, is the severity of the closure, the groups say. William Bell, the Middle East Advocacy Director for Christian Aid, said that during previous periods, “people still had work permits” and were leaving the Strip. In September 2000, during the turbulent onset of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, “some 24,000 Palestinians crossed out of Gaza every day. Today that figure is zero,” the report says.

“It’s the intensity with which the population is isolated from the outside world,” Bell added.

The report highlights that the ongoing blockade has “failed to provide Israel with increased security. … As the head of UNRWA has pointed out ‘Hungry, unhealthy communities do not make good partners for peace.’”

The document also refutes the Israeli government’s argument that since it withdrew Israeli settlers in 2005, it is no longer the occupying power, calling this assertion a “fallacy.” Israel “retains effective control of the Gaza Strip, by virtue of the full control it exercises over the Gaza Strip’s land border, its air space and territorial waters, and the movement of people and goods.”

In order to resolve the crisis, the groups called for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade and steps to reactivate the Gazan economy. Notably, the report also calls for Palestinian dialogue towards the creation of a “representative authority.”

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