Gaza: '100,000 hours of isolation'

Report highlights catastrophic consequences of three wars and a decade-long Israeli siege on Gaza Strip.

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    Gaza: '100,000 hours of isolation'
    The Euro-Med monitor called on the international community to impose economic sanctions on Israel until it respects Palestinians' human rights [AFP]

    One in every four Palestinian children in Gaza still needs to receive psychosocial support to overcome the traumatic memories of violence witnessed during Israel's war on Gaza in 2014, according to a new report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

    The report, titled Gaza: 100,000 hours of isolation, sheds light on the catastrophic consequences of Israel's decade-long blockade and wars on the Gaza.

    "While Israel is only continuing its long history of isolating Gaza, yet at an unprecedented length and severity since 2006, the consequences of the blockade continue to aggravate in unimaginable ways," said Ramy Abdu, chairman of Euro-Med Monitor. "The international community shoulders this isolation with silence and oblivion." 

    The findings show that 65 percent of Gaza residents suffer from poverty, 72 percent are food-insecure, and 80 percent have grown dependent on international aid, while unemployment in the strip has hit an unprecedented 43 percent in the last quarter of 2016.

    "Over two million people in Gaza continue to struggle with both growing rates of poverty, unemployment and food-insecurity and with diminishing quality of basic services, including electricity, water, education and healthcare," Abdu added.


    READ MORE: Israel's blockade keeps Gaza in the dark


    The Kerem Shalom crossing, known as Karem Abu Salem to Palestinians, the portal through which Gaza imports and exports are transferred, was closed for 36 percent of the days in 2016 in a trend that is typical of the blockade years.

    Further, as cited in the report, between January and December 2016, 1,900 out of 3,700 Erez crossing permits for Palestinian businessmen were deliberately cancelled. "It is harder than ever to start up a business or to develop an old one," the Euro-Med Monitor stated, noting that Israel's restrictions on Gaza exports and imports, and on the movement of traders, continue to contribute significantly to the economic recession.

    Fishing and agriculture are two other sectors significantly affected by the blockade. The number of fishermen between 2000 and 2016 dropped from about 10,000 to 4,000, with nearly 95 percent of them now dependent on international aid.

    Over two million people in Gaza continue to struggle with both growing rates of poverty, unemployment and food-insecurity and with diminishing quality of basic services, including electricity, water, education and healthcare.

    Ramy Abdu, chairman of Euro-Med Monitor

    "Israel's offences on Palestinians are not only military and economic, but also humanitarian," said Maha Hussaini, Euro-Med Monitor office manager in the Palestinian territories. "A large number of patients seeking treatment in the West Bank, Israel or abroad are systemically and arbitrarily denied permits to leave Gaza," she added, noting that at the end of 2016, fewer than 50 percent of the requests to exit through Erez, called Beit Hanoon by Palestinians, for medical treatment abroad were approved, with an approval rate of 44 percent of patient requests during the fourth quarter of 2016.

    The three Israeli wars that hit the Gaza Strip during the blockade years further exacerbated the calamitous situation facing the population. Euro-Med Monitor estimates that one in every four Palestinian children in Gaza still needs to receive psychosocial support to overcome the traumatic memories of violence witnessed during the 2014 Gaza war. 

    And so far, less than half of the international funds pledged for Gaza reconstruction have been disbursed, with only 2,167 (19.7 percent) houses rebuilt out of a total of 11,000 houses that were completely destroyed during the onslaught.

    "With a dense population long subjected to intense suffering, Gaza cannot stand too long on this brink of collapse," Hussaini warned.

    Haidar Eid, Palestinian professor and a leading member of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, asserted that Israel's siege on Gaza amounts to collective punishment and classifies it as a crime against humanity. 

    "Many believe that the siege began in 2007, but it all started after the people's choice in the January 2006 elections diverged from that of Israel and the United States," he said. "Eleven years and three wars later, there is still no accountability in sight."

    Jamal Khoudary, Palestinian MP and chairman of the Popular Committee Against Siege, said that the international community pays lip service against Israel's siege, but concrete steps to end it are yet to take place.

    "The international community seems to have pushed any substantive action on the Israeli human rights violations, much less the 11-year blockade of Gaza, to the far back burner in terms of priorities," said Abdu.

    "Despite the fact that US President Donald Trump and several European leaders are taking a page out of Israel's book by turning to walls to control the free movement of people, history has shown time and time again that the human spirit will not be denied," he added.

    Concluding the report, the Euro-Med Monitor called on the international community to impose economic sanctions on Israel until it respects Palestinians' human rights. "The international community should be able to separate between the collective punishment of the Palestinians by Israel and the political conflict between Palestine and Israel," Euro-Med Monitor underlined.

    MP Khoudary agreed, noting that the Israeli siege must be seen within the broader context of the occupation. "The building of settlements, land appropriations and the separation wall are other faces of Israel's military occupation of Palestinians that need to be addressed as well," he said. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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