PRESS RELEASE:Six months on: Little sign of improvement in Gaza since Israeli ‘easing’ of blockade, shows report from aid and human rights groups
30 NOVEMBER 2010, 00:01 GMT / 01:01 CET / 02:01 Jerusalem
Imports of construction materials still only 11 per cent of 2007 pre-blockade levels.
Israel approves imports for only seven per cent of UNRWA’s rebuilding plan for Gaza.
November 30, 2010 – Israel’s measures to ‘ease’ the illegal blockade of Gaza in the face of significant international pressure Government of Israel’s announcements of 20 June and 5 July 2010 have done little to change the plight of Gaza’s civilians, says a report published today by an international coalition of 21 development, human rights and peace-building organisations. They are calling for renewed international action to ensure an immediate, unconditional and complete lifting of the blockade.
The international community has eased its pressure on Israel, but too little has been done to effectively ease the restrictions on the daily lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are children, says the report, Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade. The report says that not only has Israel neglected to address major elements of the blockade in its ‘easing’ measures, such as lifting the ban on exports from Gaza, but it has failed so far to live up to key commitments it did make.
Israel promised to expand and accelerate imports of desperately-needed construction materials for UN and other international projects such as schools, health centres, houses and sewage plants, many of which were damaged or destroyed during the military operation in December 2008-January 2009. But in reality the report shows that progress has been slow and limited since this pledge. Israel has so far only approved the import of materials for 25 UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East construction projects for schools and clinics, a mere seven per cent of UNRWA’s entire reconstruction plan for Gaza. Even for these approved projects, only a small fraction of the required construction materials have actually been permitted to enter Gaza so far.
More generally, says the report, the UN has estimated that Gaza needs 670,000 truckloads of construction materials for housing alone in Gaza. An average of only 715 truckloads of construction materials have entered the Gaza Strip per month since the ‘easing’ announcement, says the report. At this rate, it would take many decades to build the needed homes. And because UNRWA has been unable to get construction materials to build new schools, 40,000 eligible children could not be enrolled at UN schools at the start of the new academic year.
“Only a fraction of the aid needed has made it to the civilians trapped in Gaza by the blockade”, said Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International. “Israel’s failure to live up to its commitments and the lack of international action to lift the blockade are depriving Palestinians in Gaza of access to clean water, electricity, jobs and a peaceful future.”
Moreover, the ‘easing’ has had no impact on exports which remain banned until now. This leaves two thirds of Gaza’s industrial businesses closed and the rest operating at partial capacity, while increased inflows of finished consumer goods undercut local producers who cannot export or restart their businesses, say the groups.
The movement of people has also seen little change. Despite the Israeli government’s stated commitment to streamline entry and exit to and from Gaza for humanitarian aid workers, the report shows that there has in fact been an increase in refusals of entry and exit for UN agencies’ local humanitarian staff since the ‘easing’ measures were announced. Meanwhile, the general population of Gaza remains locked in, as their freedom of movement to travel, work, study or visit family members and friends outside Gaza continues to be denied. Despite a rise in the number of businesspeople allowed to travel, there has been no increase in the overall number of Palestinians allowed to leave Gaza through the Israeli crossings, which remains below one per cent of levels prior to the second intifada in 2000.
Commenting recently, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated that, “We think that what's happened with Gaza is unsatisfactory, that Israel has failed to live up to its commitments on easing the blockade on the Gaza strip.” EU's Ashton: Israel failed to ease Gaza blockade, Haaretz, November 22, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/eu-s-ashton-israel-failed-to-ease-gaza-blockade-1.326149
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: "The so-called ‘easing’ of the Gaza blockade does not change the fact that there’s still a cruel and illegal blockade collectively punishing the entire civilian population. The only real easing has been the easing of pressure on the Israeli authorities to end this cruel and illegal practice."
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Contacts: Aldine Furio: +33 668 121 153 // Ben Jackson: +44 7946 831814
Oxfam GB, Gaza Karl Schembri, Communications Officer, +972 5989 10981 – English, Arabic
NOTES TO EDITORS
Copies of the report can be provided in English, French and Arabic upon request.
> Available contacts for interviews
NGOs spokespersons in Europe and Jerusalem/Gaza will be available for interviews in English, French and Arabic.
> Facilities for reportage in Gaza
The people quoted in this report can be interviewed or met in Gaza, we can facilitate such visits.
> Key statistics about easing measures’ implementation
Please see below table extracted from the report, about implementation of measures announced.
Israel’s ‘easing’ of the Gaza blockade: promises and realities
‘Easing’ measures announced on 20 June 2010 Summary of implementation and results
Publish a list of items not permitted into Gaza (‘negative list’).
All items absent from this list will be permitted to enter Gaza. Imports increased from 20% to 35% of pre-blockade levels; primarily consumer goods.
The published negative list extends far beyond international definition of dual-use items.
Many items absent from the list still require a special approval and many of them have not received it.
Imports of many raw materials still restricted.
Negative impact of cheap imports on local production.
Allow the entry of restricted construction materials for international projects in Gaza approved by the Palestinian Authority.
Expand and accelerate their inflow. Inflow of construction materials at only 11% of pre-blockade levels.
Delays and extra costs due to complex approval and monitoring procedures.
Only 25 UNRWA projects approved in principle, i.e. 7% of UNRWA building plan; only a small fraction of materials for the 25 projects received.
Reconstruction of people’s homes hampered due to exclusion of private sector.
Expand operations and capacity of crossings to Gaza, enabling the processing of a significantly greater volume of goods. (Further spelled out as allowing 250 trucks per day at Kerem Shalom crossing, to be increased to 400 in the first half of 2011; and allowing 360 truckloads per week through a conveyor at Karni crossing.)
Open additional crossings “as more processing capacity becomes necessary and when security concerns are fully addressed”. Crossings operation still far from sufficient for the level of imports and exports required.
Kerem Shalom crossing: 183 trucks entering per day on average, up from 86 prior to easing.
Karni crossing with capacity to process over 750 trucks daily remains closed except for a conveyor belt. The conveyor is processing only 137 truckloads per week on average, down from 158 prior to ‘easing’, and only 38% of what was promised.
Erez crossing remains opened for restricted movement of people only. Other Israeli crossings – Sufa and Nahal Oz - remain closed.
Movement of people
Streamline permits for entry and exit for humanitarian and medical reasons and for aid workers.
“As conditions improve”, consider additional ways to facilitate the movement of people to and from Gaza. Increase in permits for businesspeople.
Overall ban on exit and entry still in place. No expansion of the few exceptional categories allowed to travel. Number of exits below 1% of 2000 levels.
Fewer permits approved for UN local humanitarian staff than before ‘easing’. Permit policy for aid workers and medical patients still arbitrary, unpredictable and time consuming.
Not mentioned in the announcement:
Ban on exports continues. Not a single truck of exports has left Gaza since the ‘easing’. Israel has signaled willingness to allow some exports by spring 2011 but makes it conditional on presence of Palestinian Authority at the crossings.
No easing of fuel restrictions. Fuel for the power plant remains limited at 63% of its maximum capacity; cooking gas imports have been at around 53% of average needs; almost no diesel and petrol allowed for commercial sector. Due to the power plant fuel restrictions, exacerbated by intra-Palestinian disagreements, there is a chronic lack of electricity and regular blackouts, affecting provision of essential services, including water supply, sewage treatment, and health services.
No change. Access to around 35% of Gaza’s farmland and 85% of maritime areas for fishing remains restricted by the Israeli ‘buffer zone’, with devastating impact on the economy and people’s rights and livelihoods. An estimated 178,000 people are directly affected. Boundaries of the restricted areas are highly arbitrary and enforced by live fire: 6 civilians have been killed (2 of them children) and 50 injured (10 of them children) by Israeli fire in the buffer zone only since the ‘easing’ of the blockade.
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