End Gaza siege, aid groups urge Israel

Fifty international aid groups and United Nations agencies issued a joint appeal on Thursday calling on Israel to lift its siege of the Gaza Strip, which has plunged the majority of the population into poverty.

“For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: ‘end the blockade now,'” the petition said.
 Amongst the signatories were Amnesty International, Save the Children, the World Health Organization, Oxfam, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and five other UN bodies.

Israel imposed severe restrictions on trade to Gaza in 2001 following a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and tightened them further in 2007 after Hamas seized power in the coastal enclave.

It has relaxed them over the past two years in the face of heavy international pressure, but insists on checking all goods entering the territory to prevent arms, or weapons-making equipment, from reaching Hamas.

Palestinians in Gaza routinely complain of being unable to get basic goods for development, while the area’s only power station routinely shuts down due to fuel shortages.

Gaza residents are often unable to leave the area, with many unable to visit family elsewhere in historic Palestine.

“Since June 2007, the entire population of 1.5 million Palestinians has been trapped in Gaza, with dwindling resources and an economy in ruins,” Amnesty International has said.

Hamas won the 2006 elections in Gaza, but Israel and the United States have refused to recognize their mandate, instead holding negotiations only with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel has become increasingly isolated due to its continued oppression of Palestinians, which many activists have labelled apartheid.

In March, Israel announced it would cut all contact from the United Nations Human Rights Council after the body criticized its human rights record.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

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