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Gaza marks 1,000 days of Israel's siege

March 7, 2010 12:48 P.M. (Updated: March 10, 2010 5:24 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Protests against the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip should spread across the world, said Palestinian lawmaker Jamal Al-Khudari on Sunday, as the blockade entered its 1,000th day.

"The siege harmed the people, as well as the environment, health, the economy and social life. It constitutes a serious attempt to suffocate the people and break their will," Al-Khudari told reporters during a news conference.

He announced that 500 Gaza residents have died as a result of the siege, most of whom were patients who could not receive appropriate medical treatment.

Al-Khudari pointed out that one million Gaza residents live on humanitarian aid channeled by Arab and foreign countries as well as the UN. "The Palestinian economy in Gaza has been completely destroyed with more than 140,000 people unemployed, which amounts to 80% of Gaza’s manpower.

"It was described as a tyrannical siege that violates international law by Arab and international organizations and governments ... serious pressure must be practiced on the occupation, which is to be held accountable for the situation," he said.

Attempts to ensure the arrival of a series of solidarity boats in April by international activists are underway, he said.

Following Hamas' takeover of the costal enclave in June 2007, Israel closed the Gaza Strip's borders and began to limit vital supplies of food, fuel, medicine, construction materials, and other supplies. Most of Gaza's 1.5 million residents remain trapped inside, with work and travel permits scarcely extended to the Palestinian population by Israel. Meanwhile, Egypt enforces an ad hoc policy toward opening the Rafah crossing into Egypt, with many patients and students left stranded on either side as a result.

Few construction materials have been allowed into the Gaza Strip, preventing the population from rebuilding after Operation Cast Lead, with many remaining homeless a year on. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) John Holmes visited Gaza this week, commenting on the immediate need to lift the blockade and open the crossings fully to allow Palestinians in Gaza to commence rebuilding and, restart their lives and livelihoods.

The majority of work and travel permits issued by Israeli authorities were revoked following the takeover, with few Palestinians able to enter Israel via the Erez crossing, northern Gaza. This in turn, has lead to a rise in unemployment and has hindered medical access for many who cannot be treated in the Strip due to ongoing medical shortages and the recent destruction of hospitals during Israel's assault in December 2008.

Much of the coastal enclave experiences regular blackouts due to the fuel shortfall. OCHA described the situation at the Gaza Power Plant "fragile," with only 1.4 million liters of industrial fuel needed to operate the GPP entering Gaza this week, compared to a weekly average of 1.7 million liters since December 2009 and 2.2 million liters prior.

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