’’The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering. They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade.’’ - Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.
Since June 2007, more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children have been trapped in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade restricts the entry of vital goods such as food and fuel, and prohibits exports, denying the inhabitants their means of subsistence and exacerbating mass unemployment and dire poverty. It also results in shortages of medical equipment and medicines. People with medical conditions that cannot be treated in Gaza have been required to apply for permits to receive treatment outside the territory. The Israeli authorities often delay or refuse these permits. According to the World Health Organization, at least 28 patients died in 2009 as a result of not having received timely authorisation to leave Gaza for urgent medical treatment.
The Israeli military offensive Cast Lead, carried out between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, left at least 1 383 Palestinians dead, including hundreds of civilians. Thousands of houses, water and electricity networks, hospitals and schools were destroyed or seriously damaged, yet as long as Israel forbids the entry of construction materials, the inhabitants of Gaza cannot rebuild their devastated lives.
The Israeli authorities claim that they imposed this blockade in response to attacks by armed Palestinian groups, in particular the blind rocket fire targeting southern Israel. In reality, by limiting the entry of food, medicines, school supplies and construction materials, Israel is not attacking those responsible for the rocket fire but collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, over half of which are children.
The situation is further exacerbated by the attitude of the Egyptian Government, which continues to block the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and has just begun to build a steel wall along the border to prevent the smuggling of goods, which represents a lifeline for Gaza.
However, under international humanitarian law, it is Israel, as the occupying power, which is primarily responsible for ensuring that the population of Gaza has decent living conditions.