311_Israel postal workers.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel is imposing a postal blockade on Gaza, officials in the Hamas government have claimed, calling on the international community to intervene.
Yousef Al-Mansi, Hamas Minister of Communications and Information Technology, called Monday for the Universal Postal Union and international human rights groups to intervene and pressure Israel into allowing mail to enter and exit the Gaza Strip.
"For the past four months mail delivery into the Gaza Strip has been disrupted," Jalal Isma'il, Director General of the Gaza Communications Ministry told The Media Line. "Regular mail has been delayed, and government mail has not entered at all."
Isma'il said that mail disruptions are not a new phenomenon in Gaza, but have worsened recently.
"We have sent letters to the Universal Postal Union, and there are talks with intermediaries to solve the problem," he added.
The Israeli Postal Service and Ministry of Communications both declined to comment on the matter.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a branch of the Israeli Defense Ministry, put the blame on the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah.
"The transfer of mail has been delayed recently due to the fact that a replacement has not yet been found for Sufian Abu-Zubda, the Palestinian Authority official responsible for mail transfer, who was arrested by the Israeli security forces,” a statement from COGAT read. “[He was not replaced] despite Israeli appeals to the Ministry of Civil Affairs in the Palestinian Authority and the Director General of the Palestinian Communications Ministry to receive a new contact person."
Sulaiman Al-Zuhairi, Deputy Minister of Communications in the Palestinian Authority rejected the Israeli explanation.
"We are ready to deliver mail to Gaza at any given moment," he told The Media Line. "We have sent [the Israelis] three names of people to wait at Erez [the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip] to receive the mail, but they refuse for security and other reasons. They are stalling."
"We are looking at other options, like using private companies to tackle the problem," Al-Zuhairi added.
The Media Line has learned that Israel has indeed received three names of candidates to replace the arrested Abu-Zubda, to be vetted by Israeli security. A decision on the matter is expected soon.
The Palestinian Deputy Minister viewed the mail delivery problems as part of a wider Israeli attitude towards Gaza.
"This is part of the policy of siege imposed on Gaza,” he said. “As part of the blockade, Israelis are preventing not only the entry of mail, but of many products."
Meanwhile, the Canadian postal service advised its clients it could not deliver mail to the Gaza strip.
"All Gaza-bound mail accepted by Canada Post that is undeliverable will be returned to the sender as we do not know when mail service to the area will resume," read an official statement by Canada Post.
Responding to the Canada Post announcement, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers issued a statement in which it encouraged citizens to send their mail to Gaza aboard a Canadian ship destined to break the blockade this fall.
Denis Lemelin, National President of the Union of Postal Workers,
described the initiative as a humanitarian one.
"As postal workers, we know very well that cutting off mail creates
suffering and hardship for people, who are isolated from their loved
ones,” the statement read. “How many more abuses will the people of Gaza
have to endure?"
"We are heartened by the growing international response to Israel's
cruel treatment of the Palestinian people," Lemelin added.
In April 2008 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers decided to join the
boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel; the
first national union in North America to do so.