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As EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton prepares to visit the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Oxfam International urges her to make the immediate lifting of the Israeli-imposed blockade her top priority.
High Representative Ashton is demonstrating great leadership by visiting Gaza to see for herself the devastating impact of the ongoing blockade on the daily lives of 1.5 million Gazans. After more than 1000 days under blockade Gaza’s economy is on the verge of collapse, basic water and sanitation services are crippled, and ordinary Gazans are struggling to make a living. The EU, which is the largest donor to the Palestinians, has spoken out on human rights violations in the region but has so far failed to match its strong words with action.
“Over US$4 billion was pledged to assist reconstruction and development following last year’s military operation by Israel, but little of this money has been spent due to Israel’s closure policy. It is now time for the international community to put its mouth where its money is and insist that Israel fully opens all the crossings,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.
Though Israel has the duty to protect its citizens, it cannot impose a blockade on every civilian in Gaza. This constitutes collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. The EU should make any future upgrade in economic and political relations dependent on the end of the blockade.
“At a moment when the European Union is aiming to build strong, unified foreign policy, Lady Ashton must bring a clear message to her Quartet counterparts in Moscow and to EU Foreign Ministers that the blockade must not be allowed to continue for a third year. This will be a step towards reaching a sustainable, just and secure peace in the Middle East,” added Jeremy Hobbs.
Notes to editors
Consequences of the Gaza Blockade policy:
- An average 545 truckloads of humanitarian supplies were permitted entry into Gaza each week in February - only 41% of the pre-blockade weekly average;
- An average 688 tons of cooking gas reportedly entered Gaza each week in February – only 39% of the normal weekly level of need of 1,750 tons;
- Only 87 truckloads of strawberries and cut flowers have been permitted to exit Gaza since 10 December 2009, in a context of a near total ban on exports which dealt a severe blow to Gazan farmers. In the period before the blockade, an average of 70 truckloads of exports left Gaza a day;
- Since January 2009, Israeli naval forces have restricted the access of Palestinian fishing boats to three nautical miles from the seashore; in practice, access is sometimes restricted to as little as one nautical mile, which makes finding profitable catches almost impossible.