Israeli blockade degrades Gaza’s living conditions: UN

NEW YORK - Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip has resulted in the devastation of livelihoods, a rise in food insecurity, and an energy, water and sanitation crisis for the territory’s 1.5 million Palestinians, the United Nations said Monday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the blockade, which began in June 2007 after Hamas militants took over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, has triggered a “protracted human dignity crisis”.

“At the heart of this crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education,” OCHA said in a study titled “Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip”.

The Israeli blockade closed crossing points between Gaza and Israel, including Karni, the largest and best equipped commercial crossing, shutting down Gaza imports of industrial, agricultural and construction materials and suspended all exports, the report said.

But the report noted that Israel has allowed a small number of truckloads of goods and materials to enter Gaza in the past three months to ease the lack of construction materials, water, sanitation and education requirements.

The study said the blockade has severely hurt the area’s economy, particularly in construction and the agriculture, and caused the loss of 120,000 jobs.

Palestinians have also been prevented from using Erez crossing, which links Gaza to the West Bank.

“The denial of Palestinians’ right to leave Gaza, or to move freely to the West Bank, particularly when their lives, physical integrity, or basic freedoms are under threat, is another key component of the current human dignity crisis,” the study said.

“The blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.5 million people in what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth,” it said.

It said human sufferings in Gaza have been compounded by the recurring cycles of violence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and human rights violations.

The UN relief agency in the Middle East known as UNRWA Monday was seeking $181 million to replenish its funds to support refugees in Gaza. The appeal was launched on the eve of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to cover food needs, job creation and cash assistance to the poorest Palestinians.

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