Aid groups say world must push for an end to the Gaza block­ade

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Re­con­struc­tion of thou­sands of homes and busi­nesses de­stroyed in last sum­mer’s Is­rael-Ha­mas war in Gaza has barely be­gun and living con­di­tions in the ter­ri­tory have only wors­ened six months af­ter donor coun­tries pledged US$3.5 bil­lion for the task, a coali­tion of in­ter­na­tional aid groups said Mon­day.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Agen­cies ( AIDA) urged the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to adopt a new ap­proach to Gaza, in­clud­ing by pres­sur­ing Is­rael to lift its bor­der block­ade of the Ha­mas-con­trolled ter­ri­tory. The block­ade, also en­forced by Egypt, has been in place since the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group Ha­mas seized Gaza in 2007.

The re­port signed by 46 aid groups said only open bor­ders and a durable Is­rael-Ha­mas cease-fire can bring eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity to Gaza. Oth­er­wise, “a re­turn to con­flict — and the cy­cles of dam­age and donor­funded re­con­struc­tion that ac­com­pany it — is in­evitable,” the re­port said.

Is­rael and Egypt say they need to main­tain the clo­sure be­cause Ha­mas, shunned by much of the world as a ter­ror group, poses a se­cu­rity threat. Is­rael has fought three wars with Ha­mas in the past six years, in part to try to halt Gaza rocket fire on Is­raeli towns.

The 2014 war was the most dev­as­tat­ing for Gaza’s 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple, killing more than 2,200 Pales­tini­ans, a ma­jor­ity of them civil­ians, ac­cord­ing to U.N. fig­ures. Seventy-two peo­ple were killed on the Is­raeli side, in­clud­ing 66 sol­diers.

The re­port said about 19,000 homes were de­stroyed or se­verely dam­aged in Gaza, while an­other 134,000 suf­fered some dam­age but are fit to live in. About 100,000 peo­ple are still dis­placed, living in U. N. schools, tents pitched on rub­ble or rented apart­ments and store­fronts.

In Oc­to­ber, donor coun­tries and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions pledged US$3.5 bil­lion for Gaza. So far, only US$945 mil­lion, or 26.8 per­cent, has been re­leased, the re­port said.

“Six months af­ter the donor con­fer­ence, lit­tle tan­gi­ble change has taken place on the ground in Gaza and living con­di­tions for women, girls, men and boys con­tinue to worsen,” the re­port said.

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