Tagged: Gaza blockade

Israel’s eased blockade ‘still crippling’ Gaza

Import levels have only increased by a third since the blockade was eased, says the reports. There has been "little improvement" for people in Gaza since Israel announced it was easing its economic blockade of the territory six months ago. That is the verdict of a new report by aid agencies and rights groups workingGaza exports inside the Palestinian territory. A ban on most exports from Gaza is "crippling" the economy, they say.

The report, "Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade", was compiled by 21 different groups, including Oxfam, Amnesty and Save the Children. "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," Mr Hobbs added.

The report says there has been an increase in imports such as food and consumer goods but that import levels are still only just over one-third of what they were before 2007 when the blockade was originally tightened. It also says only a tiny fraction of the construction materials needed to rebuild Gaza is being allowed in.


In June, Israel said it would allow in construction material for projects carried out by organisations such as the United Nations. But the report says Israel has so far approved only 7% of the UN’s reconstruction projects in Gaza. It says, at the current rate it will take decades to carry out the UN’s housing and schools projects in the strip.

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EU envoy urges Israel to ease off further on Gaza

Reuters | Sun Jul 18, 2010 | 2:45pm IST

Israel should ease its Gaza blockade further and allow Palestinians to resume exports from the territory, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Sunday during a visit to the Hamas-controlled enclave. "The position of the EU is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move around freely or to see goods not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out of Gaza," Catherine Ashton told a news conference.

Israel relaxed its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, where its Islamist Hamas enemy rules, after an international outcry over its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31. But it still bans exports from the territory. Ashton said she would discuss the issue later in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "At the moment, there is no proposal on the table to open a port," she said. "The best option seems to be, and that is the most supported by Palestinians, is to open the land crossings, and that’s what we’re working on."  

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Israel admits Gaza flotilla raid ‘mistakes’

BBC News | Monday, 12 July 2010 | 17:28 GMT

Aid flotilla.jpg

An Israeli military inquiry into the naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla says commandos were under-prepared and mistakes were made at a senior level. The report says the operation suffered from flawed intelligence-gathering and inadequate planning. But it also praised the commandos involved and found the use of force had been the only way to stop the flotilla. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American died in the naval raid in international waters, which provoked a major outcry. The report criticised the operation’s planners for not having a back-up plan in the event of violence. But it also said the mission had not been a failure and did not recommend any dismissals.

‘Professional and courageous’

It said there had been a lack of co-ordination between military and intelligence bodies, and preparations for the 31 May takeover of the ships had been inadequate. As they dropped from helicopters on to the deck of one vessel, the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces were met with a violent reception, from some of those on board who were armed with clubs and knives and at least one gun, found the report. Presenting the findings to media in Tel Aviv, retired general Giora Eiland, who chaired the investigating panel, had both criticism and praise. “In this inquiry we found that there were some professional mistakes regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process and some of the operational mistakes,” he said. “But also, we did find some very positive findings, and one of them that should be emphasised is the very professional and courageous way that the Israeli commando behaved.”

General Eiland said the report was intended to help prepare Israel for similar situations which may occur in the future. The Eiland Committee, which began its work on 7 June, scrutinised the military aspects of the raid. A separate inquiry, which includes international observers, is examining whether international law was broken during the military raid. In a statement, Israeli military chief of staff Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said the Eiland inquiry had not   Continue reading

Gaza aid ship to dock in Egypt after Israel pressure

BBC News | Saturday, 10 July 2010 | 19:00 GMT

Amalthea A ship with supplies for Gaza will dock at el-Arish in Egypt, officials say, after Israeli pressure to stop the vessel breaking its Gaza blockade. The Moldovan-flagged ship chartered by a charity run by the son of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, left a Greek port on Saturday. Israel asked for help from the UN, and had talks with Greece and Moldova. But organisers insist they will go to Gaza. An Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship in May killed nine Turkish activists. Israel insisted its troops were defending themselves but the raid sparked international condemnation. Israel recently eased its blockade, allowing in almost all consumer goods but maintaining a "blacklist" of some items. Israel says its blockade of the Palestinian territory is needed to prevent the supply of weapons to the Hamas militant group which controls Gaza.

Diplomatic drive

The Amalthea, renamed Hope for the mission, set off from the Greek port of Lavrio, loaded with about 2,000 tonnes of food, cooking oil, medicines and pre-fabricated houses. It has been chartered by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. Its chairman is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The organisation said the 92m (302ft) vessel would also carry "a number of supporters who are keen on expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people". The BBC’s Malcolm Brabant in Lavrio says the Libyans clearly believe the time is right to test Israel’s resolve to maintain the naval blockade. Israel carried out intense diplomatic activity to prevent the Amalthea reaching Gaza.    

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Iran says Gaza aid delegation to go on Lebanon ship

Reuters | Sat Jun 26, 2010 | 3:47pm IST

Iranian lawmakers protesting at Israel’s blockade of Gaza plan to travel on an aid ship that plans to leave from Lebanon, an official said on Saturday. Lebanon said last week it would allow a Gaza-bound ship called the Julia to sail, via Cyprus, despite warnings from Israel that it reserved the right to use all necessary means to stop ships that tried to sail from Lebanon to Gaza. Mahmoud Ahmadi-Beighash, a member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Iranian parliament delegates could sail on the ship rather than attempt to enter Gaza via Egypt.

"A ship is going from Lebanon to Gaza in the course of the current week and the lawmakers are following up to go to Gaza via this ship," he said in comments carried by semi-official news agency ISNA. Ahmadi-Beighash said the decision to use the ship in Lebanon rather than Egypt’s land border with Gaza was taken in a meeting with parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Ships with Iranian aid for Gaza left this month but it was not clear if they would unload in Egypt. Earlier this year, Egypt refused permission to an Iranian aid boat to unload after an Israeli warship told the aid boat to leave as it approached the coastal enclave of Gaza.  

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Israel cabinet votes to ease Gaza Strip blockade

BBC News | Thursday, 17 June 2010 | 12:32 GMT

Israel has announced it will ease the land blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow more civilian goods to enter the Palestinian territory. It comes amid growing international pressure to end the embargo. An Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla attempting to break the naval blockade of Gaza last month was widely condemned. Israel and Egypt tightened the blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement took control of Gaza in 2007. The decision to ease the land blockade was agreed by Israel’s security cabinet after a two-day meeting. The move will see an expansion in the number of products Israel will allow into Gaza via border crossing points, although the naval blockade will remain in place.

The new Israeli-approved product list includes all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels; Reuters news agency quotes Raed Fattouh, Palestinian co-ordinator of supplies to Gaza, as saying. An Israeli government statement said construction materials for civilian projects would also be allowed in under international supervision. Israel has until now blocked materials like cement and steel, arguing that Hamas could use them to build weapons and fortifications.  

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Israel extends talks on easing Gaza blockade

BBC News | Wednesday, 16 June 2010 | 14:42 GMT

Israel’s security cabinet has met to consider easing the blockade of Gaza, amid growing international pressure to end the embargo. The cabinet is set to reconvene on Thursday after the meeting was adjourned without any decisions. Israel’s policy on Gaza has come under scrutiny since its navy attacked a flotilla of ships attempting to deliver aid to Palestinians last month. Meanwhile, the UN says Israel has agreed to let it distribute the aid.

New list

Israel’s security cabinet met to discuss how to ease restrictions on goods and materials allowed into Gaza. The international Middle East Envoy, Tony Blair, has said that he was confident that Israeli leaders would agree to a partial lifting of the blockade. Under a plan drawn up in co-ordination with Mr Blair, Israel could adopt a new list of banned items, rather than the current list of permitted goods, which critics claim is arbitrary. Israel and Egypt tightened their blockade on Gaza after the Islamist Hamas movement took control of the Palestinian territory in 2007.

Israel says the aim of the blockade is to prevent war material entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid. But pressure has built on Israel to end the blockade since its troops shot and killed nine people on board a Turkish-backed vessel of an aid flotilla on 31 May. The ships were attempting 

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Aid convoy prepares to set sail for blockaded Gaza

Reuters | Sun May 30, 2010 | 4:45pm IST

Convoy of ships to Gaza's Seaport A six-ship convoy carrying aid for Palestinians prepared to set sail for Gaza on Sunday in defiance of an Israeli-led blockade on the impoverished territory and warnings that it would be intercepted. The ships, led by a Turkish vessel with 600 people on board, were anchored in international waters off Cyprus. Organisers had said that the ships had set sail but they later said the convoy had moved 25 nautical miles from its initial position and was now stationary. "It was a strategic decision to move," said Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement, one of the organisers.

Israel has already said it will prevent the convoy from reaching Hamas-ruled Gaza, a sliver of desert territory which Israel has blockaded for three years. Israeli naval commandos have held drills to practice boarding and searching the ships. Activists face arrest and deportation, and their cargo will be confiscated for possible transfer by Israel to Gaza, Israeli military officials have said. Berlin said Israel risked a public relations disaster if it tried to intercept the activists. "The only scenario which makes any sense is for them to stop being the bully of the Middle East and let us go through," she said. 

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UN chief says Gaza suffering under Israeli blockade

BBC News | 11:26 GMT | Sunday, 21 March 2010

The UN chief has said Israel’s blockade of Gaza is causing "unacceptable suffering," during a Middle East visit to reinvigorate the peace process. Ban Ki-moon told Gazans that "we stand with you" as he visited an area damaged by Israel’s offensive 14 months ago. His visit to the region comes amid tension over Israel’s plans to build more settlements in East Jerusalem. Rebuilding is difficult due to a lack of building materials during the three-year blockade. Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007.

Speaking in Gaza, Mr Ban said families were living under "unacceptable, unsustainable conditions". Mr Ban said it was "distressing" for him to see damage to housing remaining, with no reconstruction possible under the blockade. The blockade has prevented the UN from completing housing projects, but Mr Ban pledged to continue providing aid to Gazans. "My message to people of Gaza is this: the United Nations will stand with you through this ordeal," he said.

‘Path of non-violence’

Among a list of criticisms of the blockade by Israel and Egypt, Mr Ban said the blockade was counter-productive as it prevented legitimate commerce and encouraged smuggling and extremism. Mr Ban urged all Gazans to "choose the path of non-violence, Palestinian unity and international legitimacy". He also called for a prisoner exchange involving Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilat Shilad    

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EU foreign chief Catherine Ashton to visit Gaza strip

blockade of Gaza Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU’s new foreign policy chief, is due to arrive shortly in the Gaza Strip. Baroness Ashton will be one of the most senior Western political figures to visit Gaza since Hamas took power. Her arrival in the Palestinian territory comes amid a new push by the EU and US to revive stalled Middle East peace talks. She will later head to Moscow for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, made up of the EU, US, UN and Russia. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in the Russian capital for the talks. The meeting will "demonstrate international support" for indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians, said US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley. The EU is the largest contributor of aid to the Palestinians, delivering 1bn Euros a year ($1.4bn; £890m).

UN welcome

Baroness Ashton said she wanted to see for herself the impact the EU’s aid has on the ground. During her Middle East tour, she is also scheduled to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres. But it is her visit to Gaza which is arousing the most interest, says Jon Donnison, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent. Only two European foreign ministers have come to Gaza in the past year, our correspondent notes. Foreign officials are often refused entry by Israel, or their governments choose not to come because they do not recognise Hamas. The visit has been welcomed by the United Nations, which says the blockade of Gaza has left hundreds of thousands in Gaza living in poverty. The head of the UN’s refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, John Ging, said the people of Gaza were hoping for a single outcome from Baroness Ashton’s visit – a lifting of the Israeli siege.     

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UN humanitarian chief criticises Israel over Gaza

BBC NEWS | Friday, 12 March 2010 | 09:37 GMT

Mr Holmes The UN’s top humanitarian official, John Holmes, has criticised Israel for linking the 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier to its blockade of Gaza. Mr Holmes also said Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including expanding settlements, was counter to the peace process. He urged a relaxation of the blockade, warning Gaza was "de-developing". It came as Israel ordered the army to seal off the West Bank for 48 hours until midnight on Saturday. An army spokesman said the move had been made because of heightened tensions in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft hit two targets in southern Gaza Strip early on Friday. Witnesses reported seeing several injured people. The developments follow a visit to Israel and the West Bank by US Vice-President Joe Biden, during which the US and Palestinians criticised Israel’s plans to build more Jewish homes in the Arab east of the city.

‘Gangster economy’

The Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was captured by Palestinian militants nearly four years ago near the border with Gaza. Mr Holmes, of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was speaking at the UN after visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this month. "Obviously we’ve called for the release of Cpl Shalit, and that he should be treated in accordance to the Geneva conventions," Mr Holmes said. "But the link between that and the fate of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza does not seem to us a reasonable one." He said the blockade of Gaza had not weakened Hamas, the militant Islamist movement which controls the territory.    

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Palestinians to urge again for Gaza inquiry – prosecutor

Reuters | Amsterdam |Mon Feb 8, 2010 | 4:58pm IST

Palestinian Authority officials will present more arguments in March urging the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes during the Israeli offensive in Palestinian-ruled Gaza, the court’s chief prosecutor said. The ICC prosecutor launched a preliminary examination in 2009 to establish whether war crimes were committed by either side in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has recognised the ICC’s jurisdiction in a bid to allow a court investigation. “They will be back in March with more legal arguments, so we are letting them come here before making any decision,” ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview at his office in The Hague. “It is a very complex decision.”

About 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, were killed in the three-week Israeli offensive launched on Dec. 27, 2008 and while a September U.N. report blasted both sides in the conflict, it was harsher in its judgement towards Israel. The ICC can investigate alleged war crimes in a state party’s territory if the U.N. Security Council — where the United States, Israel’s main backer, has veto power — refers a situation to the court or if a non-state party voluntarily accepts its jurisdiction.     Continue reading

Protests against blockade of Gaza

BBC NEWS | 2009/12/31 | 14:16:01 GMT

Gaza activists surrounded by Egyptian riot police in central Cairo (Click to enlarge)

Several hundred people have joined demonstrations on the Israel-Gaza border to protest against the Israeli blockade of the territory. The demonstrators, who marched to the Erez crossing point from both sides of the border, included dozens of international activists. The Egyptian authorities have allowed about 80 protesters to cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Dozens more, however, scuffled with police in the capital Cairo. Some report say protesters were injured by Egyptian police.

More than 1,000 international activists had gathered in Cairo in the hope of being allowed into Gaza but were refused because of what Egyptian officials called the “sensitive situation” in the Palestinian territory. Israel maintains a strict blockade of Gaza, tightened in 2007 when Hamas took over the strip, banning virtually all exports and allowing in only humanitarian basics. Egypt’s border is open to only occasionally, to people not goods. Much of what Gazans need is supplied through illegal tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel says this is also a supply route for weapons.