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Oxfam: Gaza ceasefire is a chance to finally lift blockade

Dec. 6, 2012 5:26 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 6, 2012 10:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- International aid group Oxfam on Thursday called on Israel to take the opportunity of its ceasefire in Gaza to lift the military blockade it imposes on the coastal strip.

Israel tightened a land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip when Hamas took power in 2007, devastating the local economy.

"People in Gaza need more than ceasefire, they need an end to the blockade for good," Oxfam’s Country Director Nishant Pandey said.

Israel's recent 8-day war on Gaza ended with a ceasefire on Nov. 21, which included a pledge to discuss easing travel and economic restrictions.

Gaza's government says Israel agreed to stop targeting Palestinians in a 500-meter border zone, and extend the fishing limit to 6 nautical miles. Israeli authorities have declined comment.

"In addition to a complete cessation of violence by both sides, Palestinians in Gaza should be allowed to securely move between Gaza and the West Bank, build trade networks, and reduce dependence on international aid," Oxfam's local policy director Martin Hartberg said.

"So long as Palestinians in Gaza remain isolated, the prospects of peace for Israelis and Palestinians remain distant and the chances for economic recovery in Gaza ever more remote," he noted.

Oxfam called on world leaders to deploy a well-resourced international inspection force to secure crossings into Gaza and to support the rebuilding of the only goods terminal and a new commercial seaport.

The international community should also press Israel to protect its borders with Gaza without harming civilians, and facilitate the free movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank, Oxfam said.
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