Humanitarian deterioration in Gaza, Red Cross warns

"The measures imposed by Israel come at an enormous humanitarian cost, leaving the people under occupation with just enough to survive," says the Red Cross.

By DAN IZENBERG
December 16, 2007 22:38
2 minute read.
red cross in gaza ap 298

red cross in gaza ap 298. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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In a rare public statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing "a worsening humanitarian crisis as a result of the drastic deterioration of the situation there." In the statement, released over the weekend, the ICRC said it was particularly concerned about the impact of the "severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods that exacerbate economic hardship and affect every aspect of life." "The measures imposed by Israel come at an enormous humanitarian cost, leaving the people under occupation with just enough to survive, but not enough to live a normal and dignified life," said Beatrice Megevand Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East and Africa. "The Gaza Strip has been sealed off since June, imports have been restricted to the bare minimum and essential infrastructure, including medical facilities and water and sanitation systems, is an increasingly fragile state," the ICRC wrote. Meanwhile, a source familiar with the situation in Gaza said fuel stocks to operate electricity generators for the hospitals were still sufficient, despite the 15 percent cut in fuel imports imposed by Israel. Fuel supplies for electricity generators meant to pump water and control waste water were also not at a crisis point, the source said. In a related development, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that if the closures against the Gaza Strip are not eased, "the UN predicts the need for food and direct assistance will sharply rise above and beyond the current level of 80% of the population." According to the report, "Severe shortages and restrictions on imports and exports are already beginning to distort markets in the Gaza Strip, putting anything other than the most basic goods and foods beyond the buying power of a large portion of the population. Low stock levels, rising prices, increased joblessness and loss of incomes are having devastating consequences for the local population and local economy and the livelihoods of the people of Gaza." According to details of the report, stocks of goods not considered absolutely essential by Israel are fast running out. Basic items including wheat, grain, vegetable oil, dairy products and baby milk are in extremely short supply. Because of poverty and unemployment, the purchase of meat and dairy products has fallen drastically. Unemployment is currently running at 37.6%. Since June, 713 patients out of 4,074 applicants (17.5%) have been denied permits to cross into Israel for medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank or Jordan. Israel initiated severe restrictions on the movements of goods, including non-essential food products and spare parts, after Hamas took full control of the area in June. It applied fuel sanctions against the Gaza Strip after declaring the area a "hostile territory" after heavy Kassam rocket attacks by terrorists operating in Gaza and the refusal of the Hamas authorities to stop them.

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