EU Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting today in Luxembourg discussed how the EU could best support the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Oxfam welcomes the discussion, but is disappointed that it failed to result in a concrete plan to end the blockade, and with it the suffering of the 1.5 million civilians living in Gaza.
Ministers confirmed that the EU “stands ready to contribute to the implementation of a mechanism…that would permit the reconstruction of Gaza and the revival of its economy” and to this end underlined the importance of “full and regular access via land crossings, and possibly by sea, on the basis of a list of prohibited goods,” but delayed discussion of concrete plans until the next time Foreign Ministers meet in July at the earliest.
The blockade, which enters its fourth year this month, has widely been condemned by the international community as collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. It is causing immense suffering for the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, four out of five of whom now rely on aid.
Elise Ford, head of Oxfam’s EU office, said:
“Despite initial signals of strong political will, the EU today stood back from taking the bold steps necessary to ensure the blockade is immediately and completely lifted, instead delaying discussions on more concrete plans until next month at the earliest. If the EU and the rest of the international community don’t step up its efforts, the ongoing blockade will continue to destroy the Gazan economy, and threaten attempts to achieve a just, durable and inclusive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “While fewer restrictions on importation of goods will certainly improve the situation, what Gaza needs most are jobs and the ability to export – not just short-term aid and consumer products that, without jobs, the people of Gaza can’t afford to buy.
“Israel has a duty to protect its citizens, but the blockade does not provide long-term security for either Israelis or Palestinians. Instead, it is causing immense suffering for the ordinary people of Gaza. Long-term security will come to both Israelis and Palestinians not through policies of isolation, but through policies that support a durable resolution to the conflict, based on international law.”
Notes to editors
1. The blockade, which enters its fourth year this month, has widely been condemned by the international community as collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. At the end of 2009, the EU expressed ‘grave concern’ with the situation in Gaza, and declared the ongoing blockade ‘unacceptable and politically counterproductive’. The EU has repeatedly called for the ‘immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.’
2. According to UN OCHA, the number of lorries carrying humanitarian goods that were allowed to enter Gaza last week was just 16% of the average weekly pre-blockade number allowed in by Israel.
3. At present, Israel allows 114 types of items into Gaza. Before the beginning of the blockade over 4,000 types of items entered Gaza. A large Israeli supermarket carries 10,000 – 15,000.
4. Approximately 75% of the damage caused during Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” has still not been repaired, 18 months on, due to lack of reconstruction items.
5. Agricultural production has become almost paralyzed as farmers cannot export their crops and are prohibited access to 30% of farming lands in Gaza.
6. The once thriving fishing industry has withered away as Israeli naval forces restrict the access of Palestinian fishing boats to three nautical miles from the coast; the total catch has decreased by 47% between 2008 and 2009. Gaza, a coastal enclave, now has to import frozen fish from Israel and via the tunnels.
7. Crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip are equipped with technology to prevent smuggling of weapons through commercial shipments, and can handle free movement of people.