Humanitarian situation in Gaza worst since 1967

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is worse than it has ever been since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of leading humanitarian and human rights organizations said in a report published Thursday. ( dpa )

According to the report, the blockade of Gaza has led to a dramatic increase in levels of poverty and unemployment, accompanied by a marked deterioration in education and health services.

Over 1.1 million people were now dependent on food aid, water and sewage systems were close to collapse as hospitals were suffering 12- hour power cuts.

Of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 workers had now lost their jobs, said the report compiled by Amnesty International, CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save The Children UK and Trocaire.

It warned that Israel's blockade of Gaza was a "collective punishment" of the entire Gazan civilian population of 1.5 million, and described the blockade as "unacceptable and illegal."

According to Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of CARE International UK, the recent escalation in violence, both from rocket attacks and military strikes, was bound to make life even more unbearable in Gaza.

Unemployment had soared and 80 per cent of people in Gaza were now dependent on food aid, compared to 63 per cent in 2006.

Water and sewage infrastructure was on the point of total collapse.

"Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed."

Amnesty International called for the current situation to be reversed.

" Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, but as the occupying power in Gaza, it also has a legal duty to ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care. Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible," said Kate Allen, Amnesty's director in Britain.

In its report, entitled "The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion," Amnesty urges the British government and the European Union (EU) to press for a new strategy for Gaza.

Christian Aid also called for a new strategy for Gaza.

"Humanitarian aid can help stave off total collapse but it will not provide a long-term solution, said Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid.

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