Gaza’s Civilians, Still Unable to Rebuild One Year After Operation Cast Lead, ‘Betrayed’ by International Community

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Gaza’s Civilians, Still Unable to Rebuild One Year After Operation Cast Lead, ‘Betrayed’ by International Community

The blockade, which began in June 2007, has sharply increased poverty

LONDON - The international community has betrayed the people
of Gaza by failing to back their words with effective action to secure
the ending of the Israeli blockade which is preventing reconstruction
and recovery, say a group of 16 leading humanitarian and human rights
groups in a new report released today ahead of the anniversary of the start of Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli authorities have allowed only 41 truckloads of all
construction materials into Gaza since the end of the offensive in
mid-January, warn the groups, which include Amnesty International,
CAFOD, Christian Aid, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Mercy Corps and
Oxfam International. The task of rebuilding and repairing thousands of
homes alone will require thousands of truckloads of building materials,
they add.

Little of the extensive damage the offensive caused to homes,
civilian infrastructure, public services, farms and businesses has been
repaired because the civilian population, and the UN and aid agencies
who help them, are prohibited from importing materials like cement and
glass in all but a handful of cases, says the report.

Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director, said: "It is
not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza with a blockade that
punishes everybody living there for the acts of a few. World powers
have also failed and even betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens. They have
wrung hands and issued statements, but have taken little meaningful action to attempt to change the damaging policy that prevents reconstruction, personal recovery and economic recuperation."

"Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, too, must maintain their
current de facto cessation of violence and permanently cease all
indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. And all the
Palestinian factions also need to intensify their reconciliation
dialogue to pave the way for a reunified Palestinian government able to
effectively provide for the needs of its civilian population."

The effect of the construction materials ban goes much wider, say
the authors of the report. They say the blockade has also led to
frequent power, gas and water shortages, seriously
affecting daily life and public health.  Parts of the Gaza electricity
network were bombed during the conflict and require urgent repairs,
which have still not been allowed to proceed almost one year after the
conflict. This, combined with Israel continuing to restrict the supply
of industrial fuel into Gaza, means that 90% of people in Gaza suffer
power cuts of four to eight hours a day.

Power cuts also cause daily interruptions to water
supply, as does the inability to repair water pipes, roof top water
tanks and household connectors, because materials and spare parts are
not deemed essential humanitarian supplies by Israel and so are
prevented entry under the blockade.  With the loss of pressure in the
pipes, polluted water from the ground contaminates the supply.
Together with chronic disrepair to the sewage system, poor water
quality is a major concern for aid agencies in Gaza, with diarrhoea
causing 12 % of young deaths

The blockade, which began in June 2007 after Hamas took control of
the Gaza Strip, has sharply increased poverty, helping make 8 out of 10
people dependent on some form of aid. Businesses and farms have been forced to close and lay off workers.
An almost complete ban on exports has hit farmers hard, compounded by
the offensive which wrecked 17% of farmland together with greenhouses
and irrigation equipment, and left a further 30% unusable in no-go
‘buffer zones' expanded by the Israeli military after the end of the
offensive.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: "The wretched
reality endured by 1.5 million people in Gaza should appal anybody with
an ounce of humanity. Sick, traumatised and impoverished people are
being collectively punished by a cruel, illegal policy imposed by the
Israeli authorities.

"Israel's responsibility to protect its citizens does not give it
the right to punish every man, woman and child of Gaza. All states are
obliged under international law to intervene to put an end to this
brutal blockade but their leaders are failing in this fundamental
measure of their own humanity. All states must insist that the Israeli government end its blockade and let the people of Gaza rebuild their shattered lives."

The report argues
that, while Israel has a duty to protect its citizens, the measures it
takes must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law.
By enforcing its blockade on Gaza, Israel is violating the prohibition
on collective punishment in international humanitarian law, it says. 
In the report the groups call on Israel to end the blockade. But they
also say, ‘the people of Gaza have been betrayed by the international
community which can and must do far more to end this illegal and
inhumane blockade'. They urge the EU, for example, to take immediate and concerted action to secure the lifting of the blockade of Gaza so
that the close of Spain's six-month presidency of the EU in June 2010
does not also mark the third anniversary of the blockade being imposed.

The report's authors also call on European foreign ministers and the
EU's new High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton to visit Gaza to see for themselves the impact of the blockade on its people.
Securing an immediate opening of the Gaza crossings for building
materials to repair ruined homes and civilian infrastructure as winter
sets in would be an important step towards an end to the blockade, say
the organisations.

Janet Symes, Head of Middle East Region, Christian Aid
said: "Expressions of disapproval over the blockade of Gaza by the
international community are no longer enough.  It is time to allow the people of Gaza to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and rebuild. There must be no more excuses from the international community."

Read more

Download Oxfam's report: Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses

Latest blog: Gazan farmers unable to work their land in the 'buffer zone'

Oxfam International's work around the crisis in Gaza

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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