Thursday, June 14, 2012

Middle East: UN humanitarian official urges lifting of Israeli blockade of Gaza

Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos. UN Photo/WFP/Rein Skullerud

UN 13 June 2012 – With the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip now entering its sixth year, the top United Nations humanitarian official today called for its immediate lifting, citing the devastating impact it has had on the lives and livelihoods of 1.6 million Palestinians living in the area.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said in a statement that more than 80 per cent of families in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian aid. In addition, Gaza remains subject to severe restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of people, by land, air and sea.

“This amounts to a collective punishment of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law,” stated Ms. Amos, who also serves as the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza for what it called security reasons after the Hamas group, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, ousted the Fatah movement in the Strip in 2007.

“While some steps have been taken to ease its impact, it is vital that the blockade be lifted immediately, so that essential services and infrastructure can be maintained,” Ms. Amos said.

The UN relief chief also noted that the opportunity to develop a sustainable economy would also reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance.

“The rights of all civilians, Palestinian and Israeli, must be protected and respected at all times, within the framework of international law,” she said. “All have a right to live free from the fear of indiscriminate violence and to live in peace, security and dignity.”

Senior UN officials as well as the diplomatic Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – have repeatedly called over the past years for an end to the blockade, stating that while efforts to ease the closure were welcome, a full and immediate lifting was needed.