TWO YEARS after a devastating war with Israel, in which more than 2000 Palestinians died, a sense of despair is gripping the Gaza Strip, where reconstruction has barely begun, aid agencies have warned.
Israel’s blockade, now in its tenth year, has “stifled recovery efforts”, Christian Aid's advocacy and policy officer, William Bell, said last week. With restrictions in place on the movement of people and goods into Gaza, including fuel and building materials, recovery has “barely begun”. About 80 per cent of the population is still dependent on aid, and unemployment remains the highest in the world. The blockade has “ensured a sense of despair amongst the trapped and isolated population”, he said.
Jeremy Moodey, the chief executive of the charity Embrace the Middle East, which works with church-based partners inside Gaza (News, 17 June), said this week that the three “terrifying” wars in six years had had a “particularly devastating impact on Gaza’s children”, who make up half the 1.8 million population. “These children have been scarred, emotionally and psychologically, and deprived of their basic rights,” he said. While the charity’s Christian partners were helping malnourished babies, and addressing the symptoms of trauma in older children, they reported that “the ongoing blockade, and the fear of further violence are causing many Palestinians in Gaza to lose hope.”
Embrace is among the agencies calling on the UN to put pressure on Israel to lift its restrictions, at its next meeting on the issue in September. More than 600,000 people have signed an online petition, supported by Embrace, to this effect.
Christian Aid is also calling for an end to the blockade. The international community was “failing in its duty to both protect an innocent civilian population and work intensively with all parties to achieve peace with justice and security for all”, Mr Bell said. “Without urgent effort, hope and confidence in a future free from violence is hard to imagine.” A UN fact-finding mission has determined that the blockade constitutes an illegal “collective punishment” of people living in Gaza.
The blockade was imposed after the abduction of an Israeli soldier in 2006, and tightened after Hamas took control of Gaza. Israel argues that that the restrictions are necessary to stop the movement of weapons, and that it does allow some aid in. Earlier this month, a Turkish ship carrying 11,000 tonnes of aid arrived at the port of Ashdod, to be delivered to Gaza in time for Eid al-Fitr. It was the first such shipment since 2011, when a flotilla of Turkish activists trying to breach the blockade was attacked by Israeli forces. A deal between the two countries has been signed.
More than 120,000 Palestinian homes were damaged in the 2014 war, and about 20,000 were left totally uninhabitable, reports the UN, which has taken more than a year to rebuild the first home identified for reconstruction.