Rights groups: Gaza is a 'big prison'

Israeli rights group say the Gaza Strip has remained a big prison under Israeli occupation, with little practical improvement in freedom of movement since February's peace summit.

    Some 77% of Palestinians live in poverty in the Gaza Strip

    "It is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza," according to the report published on Tuesday by Israeli rights group B'Tselem and the HaMoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual.

    Despite measures taken by Israel following last month's landmark Middle East summit in Egypt, the report concluded there has been "little change in movement to and from the Gaza Strip, including the import and export of goods".

    Less than 2000 Palestinians are authorised to work in Israel compared to 26,500 before the intifada broke out in September 2000 and the more than 100,000 working in the Jewish state in the previous decade, it said.

    Economic siege

    As result of Israel's "economic siege" on Gaza, more than 77% of Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line - almost double the number that existed before the intifada, the report said.

    The report put unemployment at 39.4%. Using figures from Unesco, the report said road-routed exports in 2004 amounted to 30% of what they were in 1998.

    Based on the number of incoming trucks, it calculated that imports were 55% of what they were in 1998. Since the beginning of the intifada, travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank declined by 98%. 

    Israel is on track to evacuate all 8000 Jewish settlers living in the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip from the end of July. 



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