Gaza has often been called the world's largest open-air prison.

For over two years Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants, while the strictly regulated Egyptian border ensures that the Palestinians within are squeezed for even the most basic supplies needed to reconstruct their shattered land.

Exacerbating their plight, the Palestinians are crippled politically by a divide between Hamas and Fatah. Almost 80 per cent of the people exist on aid provided by the UN and other international organisations.

Since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military offensive last year, the crossings into Gaza have been virtually sealed off. Both Israel and Egypt have tightened the restrictions on goods and people, leaving Gazans with little hope to rebuild their lives.

Just what is really behind this tightened siege? And what is the human cost?

Inside Story presenter Hoda Abdelhamid discusses the matter with Omar Shaban, an economist and the director of PalThink, a Palestinian think tank; Gideon Levy, from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz; and Aziz El-Kaissouni, of Oxfam International.

This episode of Inside Story aired on Monday, December 28.

Source: Al Jazeera