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UN concern grows over Israeli blockade of Gaza crossings

UN concern grows over Israeli blockade of Gaza crossings

Houses destroyed by the Israeli army in Al Qerem area of East Jablia, Gaza [File Photo]
The ongoing Israeli restrictions on the flow of goods in and out of Gaza is hampering reconstruction and recovery efforts after the recent conflict in the Strip, the United Nations humanitarian arm said today.

Only 512 truckloads of goods entered Gaza in the week leading up to 9 June, less than one-fifth of the shipment in early 2007 before Hamas took control of the area, reported the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA said that the entry of essential goods and services, including materials for reconstruction, spare parts for water and sanitation projects, as well as industrial and agricultural materials remain either restricted or banned outright.

It noted that no petrol or diesel fuel has entered Gaza through the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline since 2 November 2008, except for limited quantities for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and most of the petrol and diesel available on the open market for public use is smuggled in through the tunnels under the border with Egypt.

In a recent report, covering the period from May 2008 to April 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that increased isolation, internal Palestinian divisions and the recent three-week military offensive against Hamas led to “substantial economic and humanitarian deterioration” in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Ban pointed out that as a result of the situation in Gaza, real gross domestic product was estimated to have declined by 13 per cent from a year before, while per capita income dipped to almost 34 per cent below its level in 2000.

At the end of May, Maxwell Gaylard, the top UN humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the fighting from December 2008 to January 2009 had destroyed some 4,000 homes and damaged another 40,000, and although donor countries have pledged billions of dollars for Gaza’s reconstruction, it cannot begin because of the blockade.