Israel Must End Gaza Blockade, says UN Official

NEW YORK, June 15, 2013 (WAFA) – A United Nations independent expert Friday called on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, six years after it was tightened following the Hamas takeover in June 2007.

“The people of Gaza have endured the unendurable and suffered what is insufferable for six years,” said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Richard Falk. “Israel’s collective punishment of the civilian population in Gaza must end today,” he said.

“Six years of Israel’s calculated strangulation of the Gaza Strip has stunted the economy and has kept most Gazans in a state of perpetual poverty and aid dependency,” the UN expert added.

Citing statistics released by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Falk said that in 2012, the total number of truckloads of exports leaving Gaza was 254, compared to 9,787 in 2005 before the tightening of the blockade.

In addition, the UN expert said the productive capacity of Gaza has dwindled since 2007, with 80 per cent of factories in Gaza now closed or operating at half capacity or less due to the loss of export markets and prohibitively high operating costs as a result of the blockade.

“Thirty-four percent of Gaza’s workforce is unemployed including up to half the youth population, 44% of Gazans are food insecure and 80% are aid recipients,” he said, highlighting also the lack of access to potable water, fuel and electricity.

He added that while a small proportion of Gazans can afford to obtain supplies through the tunnel economy, “tunnels alone cannot meet the daily needs of the population in Gaza.”

“It’s clear that the Israeli authorities set out six years ago to devitalize the Gazan population and economy,” the Special Rapporteur said, referring to a study undertaken by the Israeli Ministry of Defense in early 2008 detailing the minimum number of calories Palestinians in Gaza need to consume on a daily basis to avoid malnutrition.

M.S.

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