A UN Special Focus on Gaza Under Siege - by Stephen Lendman
In August 2009, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a special report titled: "Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip." It focuses on import and export restrictions, the travel ban on "livelihoods, food security, education, health, shelter, energy and water, and sanitation." It explains how violence and human rights abuses increase the suffering of 1.5 million people.
Following Hamas' January 2006 electoral victory, all outside aid was cut off. Sanctions and an economic embargo were imposed, and the democratically elected government was falsely accused of being a terrorist organization and isolated. Stepped up repression followed as well as IDF attacks, killings, targeted assassinations, property destruction, and more. Gazans have been imprisoned ever since. In silence, the world community sanctions Israeli crimes and shares guilt for their commission.
In June 2007, Israel placed the Territory under siege and imposed an unprecedented blockade on nearly all movement and supplies in and out of the Strip, "triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences." At its heart is the "degradation (of) living conditions," the erosion of livelihoods, the lack of vital services in the areas of health, water, sanitation and education, and the collapse of essential infrastructure in the wake of Operation Cast Lead.
Over the past several months, Israel allowed in only small amounts of vital goods and services, far below quantities essential enough to relieve a grave humanitarian crisis. Despite the urgings of the UN, ICRC, a few nations, and numerous human rights organizations, Israel continues its blockade that includes:
-- the closure of border crossings, including Karni, the largest and best equipped commercial one, except for a conveyor belt for the transfer of inadequate amounts of grains;
-- tight restrictions on the import of industrial, agricultural, construction, and essential to life products, services, and materials;
-- a suspension of nearly all exports;
-- restricted amounts of industrial fuel (for Gaza's sole power plant), benzene, diesel, and cooking gas;
-- except for a limited number of humanitarian cases, a ban on Palestinian traffic through Erez, the only passenger crossing to the West Bank;
-- other than intermittent openings, the closure of Rafah, the Egyptian-controlled crossing; and
-- restricted (to close to shore) fishing and accessibility to farmland.
After over two years of siege:
-- Gaza's economy was wrecked;
-- the UN report way underestimates the number of job losses at 120,000 and unemployment at 40%;
-- on May 1, the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce reported that unemployment reached 65%, poverty hit 80%, and the longer the siege continues, the higher these figures will go; in addition, 96% of Gaza's industrial capacity is shuttered, and well over 80% of the population is aid-dependent; yet most get below minimal amounts of everything;