Al Jazeera & Associated Press & The Washington Post & Reuters & Haaretz & Oxfam International – 2010-12-01 20:15:20
21 International Organizations Call for
Immediate End to Gaza Siege
Al Jazeera / Mosaic News: November 30, 2010
Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
Presenter, Female #1
Twenty-one international human rights organizations called for a new worldwide movement to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip immediately, completely and unconditionally. The organizations said in their statement that Israel’s measures to ease the siege are illegal and have not changed a thing in the lives of civilians.
They added that though the international community reduced its pressure on Israel, very little has been done to effectively lift the restrictions on the daily life of Gaza residents. Our correspondent Waâ€™il Tahdouh reports.
Reporter, Male #1
They are surprised to hear about the talks on lifting the siege on Gaza. They are still cooped up in a tent or a semi-tent. The family of Hajj Abu Sahal was displaced after their house was destroyed in the war on Gaza. After two years of a bitter life, Hajj Abu Sahal is still dreaming about rebuilding his house, but the continuation of the blockade is standing between him and his dream.
Guest, Male #1
The siege exists here and it gets tighter all the time. Our suffering increases as the siege gets harsher, because the siege bans construction materials.
Reporter, Male #1
In the neighborhood, the cement factories are still semi-closed due to the relentless Israeli restrictions on construction materials. The workers are working at a fraction of their total production capacity, but not because they are having fun. The construction materials that enter from the permitted channels are far from enough. The war destroyed tens of thousands of houses.
Guest, Male #2
It is extremely unfortunate that these buildings are not finished. The reason for that is the lack of construction materials available in the industry, especially concrete and cement, which are considered the basic materials for this industry. And everybody knows that the factories employ more than 30% of the labor in Gaza.
Reporter, Male #1
The situation is not very different for medical care. Israel allows few people to reach humanitarian aid by going through its crossings. This situation prompted international organizations to raise their voice calling for the siege on Gaza to be lifted.
Guest, Male #3 (Karel Shakbari, media official for Oxfam organization in Gaza)
We have seen no easing of the blockade in terms of rebuilding Gaza. The disastrous war that struck Gaza destroyed 5,000 houses and severely damaged numerous others that are impossible to rebuild.
Reporter, Male #1
Until now, the international community’s voice has not been strong to subject Israel to the power of international law, if it has any power at all. Israel often tries to escape international pressure by issuing formal resolutions that it will soon retract.
This is the philosophy of those who criticize the siege in Gaza. Gazans believe this siege will not end without lifting the ban on construction materials, or without gaining their right to choose their fate and travel freely, beginning with their right to live.
Wa’il Tahdouh, Aljazeera, Gaza, Palestine.
NGOs accuse Israel of not easing Gaza blockade
IBA TV, Israel
Civil Rights groups are accusing Israel of only marginally easing its 3-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, leaving the people there in a continuing state of humanitarian crisis. The 21 NGOs accuse Israel of ducking promises to ease the blockade’s effect on civilians.
A pledge made after the commando raid in May on the Turkish flotilla. The report said Israel is allowing in more food and some building materials, but is dragging its feet on major construction projects.
21 Aid Groups Call for End of Siege;
Plight of Gaza Civilians Still Dire
Diaa Hadad /
The Associated Press & The Washington Post
JERUSALEM (November 30, 2010) — Business and construction in the Gaza Strip remain stifled half a year after Israel announced it would ease its three-year-old blockade of the needy, war-ravaged Palestinian territory, a report by several aid groups said Tuesday.
The groups accused Israel of ducking promises to ease the blockade’s effects on civilians, a pledge it made under pressure after a deadly Israeli commando raid in May on an international flotilla protesting the restrictions. The report said Israel is allowing in more food and some building materials but is dragging its feet on major construction projects.
“We aren’t seeing an easing of the blockade compared to Israel’s declared aims,” said Karl Schembri of Oxfam, among the 21 groups behind the report. Others included Amnesty International and Save the Children. “It’s not having any impact,” he said.
Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas group seized power there in June 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel, from building up its arsenal. But critics counter that the blockade has failed to weaken Hamas, while causing widespread misery among Gaza’s 1.5 million people.
Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is easing the blockade but must check everything entering Gaza. “We want to see civilian goods reach the civilian population of the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Obviously goods have to be checked to make sure weapons and dual-use goods don’t enter the Gaza Strip.”
Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar rejected the findings, saying Palestinians in Gaza had not built up the capacity to allow more materials to enter the coastal territory. While they were allowed to bring in 250 trucks a day, Palestinians were only bringing in 176.
Inbar said movement at the crossings was sluggish because the crossings were being renovated to enlarge their capacity. He said Israel strictly supervised the entry of building materials because militants could use items like concrete and pipes in their fight against Israel.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the report “needs immediate translation into action … to force the occupation government to immediately end the Gaza Strip’s suffering.”
The blockade kept out raw materials for factories and construction — hindering economic recovery and reconstruction after Israel’s winter 2009 offensive against Hamas, which left thousands of Gaza buildings in ruins. It also penned in residents, banned exports and restricted fuel to Gaza.
Gaza residents largely made due with goods — ranging from cows to computers — smuggled through tunnels under the border with Egypt. Hamas also obtains building materials, weapons and cash through the tunnels, meaning shortages most harshly affect civilians.
On May 31, Israeli commandos raided an international flotilla seeking to break the blockade, killing nine activists on a Turkish ferry boat. The incident drew international criticism, and Israel said it would ease the blockade and facilitate large projects supervised by the United Nations and other aid groups. The report said Israel’s easing has focused on food and consumer products, which have largely replaced dusty, tunnel-smuggled goods on Gaza’s shelves. But it has had little effect on larger projects.
The UN has plans to build 100 schools and 10,000 housing units, some to replace those destroyed in the war. The report said it has been able to start only 7 percent of these and even those have been slowed by Israeli bureaucracy and sluggish border crossings.
Israel has allowed other groups to begin work on projects like sewage plants, wells and community centers, but the report describes these as marginal compared with Gaza’s needs.
Overall, 11 percent of the materials entering Gaza before the blockade are now getting in, the report said.
The report noted that Israel has allowed in materials like wood for building and butter and fabric for factories. But it said the continued ban on most raw materials has kept 65 percent of Gaza’s factories shut.
Some 40 percent of Gazans are unemployed and 80 percent depend on aid.
In Gaza, UN Chief Calls Israel Siege
‘Unsustainable and Wrong.’
Ban Ki-moon: Israel Must End Gaza Blockade
Reuters & Haaretz
(March 31. 2010) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged Israel to end a three-year blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and called on Palestinians to heal their political rifts.
Ban’s visit to the blockaded territory follows a trip made by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who entered the coastal enclave last week.
“The Palestinian people are living under very difficult circumstances where normal lives are restricted by closures, security checks and road blocks,” Ban said. The UN chief was visiting the Gaza Strip for the second time since Israel ended its three-week offensive against Hamas in January 2009 and toured areas where hundreds of houses and factories had been destroyed.
In the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis Ban visited a building site of 150 homes funded by the United Nations and said Israel had recently approved the flow of construction materials needed to complete the project. “This is a positive, welcome step and I believe that we need far more … I have repeatedly made it clear to Israeli leaders that their policy of closures is not sustainable and is wrong … It causes unacceptable suffering,” Ban said.
While it opens some crossings to allow goods for international relief agencies and some private companies, Israel has refused to allow materials that can also be used to make weapons and tunnels such as some chemicals, cement and steel.
Israel has kept a tight blockade on the coastal enclave since June 2007 when Hamas Islamists seized the coastal enclave from rival secular Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. The Gaza blockade has fuelled unemployment which now stands at more than 50 percent among the 1.5 million population.
Ban also appealed for a prisoner exchange so that Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit can be released. Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in 2006 and Hamas has demanded Israel free hundreds of the thousands of militants in its jails in exchange for the soldier.
Although he did not meet any of Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the Islamist group deployed hundreds of armed security men along Ban’s route to confront any possible threat by radical Islamist groups that share the same ideology with al Qaeda.
Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade
(December 1, 2010) — On June 20, 2010, following concerted international pressure, the Government of Israel announced a set of measures to â€˜easeâ€™ its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Many in the international community expressed hopes that this would lead to a major change and alleviate the plight of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. However, five months later, there are few signs of real improvement on the ground as the “ease” has left foundations of the illegal blockade policy intact.
While the Government of Israel committed to expand and accelerate the inflow of construction materials for international projects, it has so far only approved 7 per cent of the building plan for UNRWA’s projects in Gaza, and of that 7 percent only a small fraction of the necessary construction material has been allowed to enter for projects including schools and health centers.
Although there has been a significant increase in the amount of food stuffs entering Gaza, many humanitarian items, including vital water equipment, that are not on the Israeli restricted list continue to receive no permits. Two thirds of Gaza’s factories report they have received none or only some of the raw materials they need to recommence operations.
As a result, 39% of Gaza residents remain unemployed and unable to afford the new goods in the shops. Without raw materials and the chance to export, Gaza’s businesses are unable to compete with the cheaper newly imported goods. This economic development leaves 80% of the population dependent upon international aid.
In order to have a positive impact on the daily lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are children, Israel must fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Key recommendations to the international community:
â€¢ Launch a new, concerted diplomatic initiative for an immediate, politically unconditional and complete lifting of the blockade
â€¢ Convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to review the implementation of Resolution 1860 which emphasizes “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation.” Further action necessary for its implementation should be considered.
â€¢ Plan a visit to Gaza as part of every high-level visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
â€¢ State explicitly that the ongoing blockade is illegal under international law.
â€¢ Support genuine investigations into, and accountability for, violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law committed by all parties, including the Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups as a way to prevent future violations.