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Israel block goods in, out of Gaza, UN condemns

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Palestine: The Israeli government has closed Kerem Shalom Crossing and put thousands of jobs at risk, and raised the spectre of financial ruin in Gaza by blocking goods scheduled to enter or leave the strip.

According to Aljazeera report Israel has said its measure was in response to incendiary kites and balloons that have been sent over the fence by demonstrators in Gaza and scorched Israeli agricultural lands.

The report says that the Palestinian Crossings Authority was instructed that only items deemed “humanitarian” by Israeli authorities will be allowed to enter Gaza including food, hygiene and medical supplies, fuel, animal feed and livestock.

“Prices for essential materials such as cement spiked immediately following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement – and continue to climb. With construction goods, which accounted for 44 percent of imports in June, banned, construction work is expected to halt in Gaza,” report reads.

Among the cancelled scheduled imports following Israel’s announcement were 16 truckloads of building materials for UN agencies designated for education, health and water projects.

The UN said in a statement on Friday that the new restrictions are likely to exacerbate the “already dire living conditions in Gaza, driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade that has raised concerns of collective punishment alongside an unresolved internal Palestinian divide”.

Forty-nine percent of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed (65 percent for youth) and 70 percent of people rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

Under international humanitarian law, Israel as the occupying power is obliged to ensure that the social, economic and cultural rights and needs of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank are provided for.

“Israel’s choice to use collective punishment to address the challenge posed by burning kites is immoral and illegal. As it is, humanitarian conditions in Gaza are deplorable, even dangerous,” a spokesperson from Gisha said.

“The harm inflicted on farmers in the south of Israel is both serious and lamentable, but harming Gaza’s residents is not going to fix it,” added the spokesperson.

“Israel’s distinction between ‘humanitarian’ and thus permitted items, as opposed to ‘less essential’ and therefore banned items, is as baseless as it is egregious; particularly given the devastating humanitarian situation already rampant in the Strip. It appears Israel is once again attempting to limit supplies to Gaza to a humanitarian minimum, as it did during the harshest periods of the closure.”

(The report has appeared in Aljazeera)

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