Gaza Closure Choking Palestinians

The continued closure of Gaza's commercial lifeline is causing a humanitarian and economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, UN, Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations say.

Gaza Closure Choking Palestinians
The crossing, known as Karni or al-Muntar, is Gaza's only commercial outlet to the outside world. Israeli forces unilaterally shut down the crossing on 14 January based on "intelligence alerts of impending attacks", according to the Israeli Army. 

The closure comes despite an agreement brokered by Condoleeza Rice, the US Secretary of State, late last year that said the passage would operate continuously, especially during the harvest season.  
According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the closure is costing Palestinians up to $500,000 a day.

Dairy products, baby formula, sugar, rice are amongst items dwindling on the supermarket shelves in Gaza. In addition, 90 containers of humanitarian supplies, including food and aid, belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), are stuck at Israeli ports, says the group.  

Supplies blocked

The UN agency says there is also a shortage of construction materials and medicines including vital children's vaccinations. "The Palestinian Ministry of Health is running short on medical supplies and has to rely on emergency stocks. Drugs for anaesthetic use are in particular short supply," said the report.  Gaza's main hospital is also facing a shortage of a solution used for hundreds of kidney dialysis patients.

The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights and Israel's Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a statement jointly condemning the "tightening of the siege" imposed on the Gaza by Israeli occupation forces.

"Since the recent tightening of the closure by closing Karni Crossing, the Gaza Strip's residents' humanitarian predicament progressively increases from day to day; many basic foods have been consumed and are no longer available in the local market in the Gaza Strip, in addition to a drastic increase of prices of the remaining quantities of these basic goods," said the statement.

Israeli forces say they suspected Palestinian groups were digging a tunnel under the crossing.  No such tunnel has been found, as the closure nears the end of its third week, Palestinian security sources say.  

Endangering lives

"These measures are harming the health and lives of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip," Shabtai Gold, of PHR, told Aljazeera.net.

"It also shows that the Israeli military still has some control over the lives of the Palestinians even after disengagement."

The Palestinian Trade Centre estimates that around 80 commercial trucks that normally pass through Karni from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel everyday have been unable to exit, creating a total loss of $7 million this month alone.

The losses come amidst a deepening financial crisis for the Palestinians. Following a Hamas victory in Palestinian legislative elections, the US has cut direct foreign aid to Palestinians while the Israelis have frozen tax-revenues to the Palestinian Authority to the tune of some $43 million. 

The crossing has been completely or partially closed everyday during the past three years and working at half its potential capacity, according to both al-Mezan and OCHA.

Gaza farmers have been demonstrating against the closure. In recent days, they dumped loads of rotting fruits, vegetables and flowers near the crossing in protest.

Wasted produce

Nearly 170 tonnes of their produce - carnations, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and bell peppers, have been destroyed or donated, or are in the process of rotting, with the  local market unable to absorb the vast quantities destined for export.  

Some 70 tonnes are awaiting shipment, and some 100 tonnes are in need of immediate harvesting.

Mohammad al-Bakri, of the union of agricultural work committees, says that in addition, some 45% of the annual water expenditure has been wasted on the rotting crops.  "In a thirsty place as Gaza, that is truly a waste. It could have gone to the people," said al-Bakri.

Al-Bakri says the closure also threatens agricultural projects being undertaken with Japanese collaboration, since  equipments, seedlings, and fertilisers cannot be brought in.

"There are $1 million worth of projects waiting for us. We can't resume our normal work. We ask for international community to do something about this. A closure of this magnitude is the greatest catastrophe that can inflict the agricultural sector," said al-Bakri.

It is strawberry harvest season now in the Gaza. The low-pesticide berries would have found a ready market in Europe, if only they could be exported in time.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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