Press release, 9 December 2010
On exports see Harriet Sherwood’s Guardian report below
And see the new report, “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade”published at the end of November by an impressive international coalition of development, human-rights and peace-building organisations.
The Israeli authorities have reduced the amounts of wheat allowed into the Gaza Strip. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), lower quantities of wheat grain and animal feed have been allowed to enter Gaza during the past few months. Between January and May 2010 the 64,237 tons were allowed to enter Gaza through a special conveyer belt at Karni Crossing. Since June 2010, the Israeli authorities allowed only 48,609 tons into Gaza.
Wheat is allowed to enter Gaza only through the Karni Crossing. This crossing operates for two days a week. The conveyer belt used to bring in wheat grain during the two days it opened. However, Israel has started to allocate only one day for wheat grain and animal feed while the other day has been allocated to bring in construction materials for approved housing projects implemented by UN agencies. Al Mezan is concerned by the ongoing decline in the amounts of wheat grain and animal feed allowed to enter Gaza under the siege conditions that continue to reflect insensitivity toward the needs and welfare of Gaza population.
The reduction of amounts of wheat and animal feed harms the direct humanitarian needs of Gaza population. During the past years, the Israeli continuous closures imposed on the Gaza Strip have prevented Palestinians from keeping any strategic stockpile of basic commodities; including wheat grain. Within a few days the signs of scarcity of wheat and animal feed started to appear in Gaza. Lines of people waiting for bread in front of bakeries have started to form around Gaza’s towns and refugee camps. The prices of meat and chicken; already expensive for most of Gaza’s impoverished population, have also started to increase.
Other human rights problems are also caused by the reduction of these two commodities; including an increase in poverty and unemployment. Many Palestinians have lost their jobs in work related these materials. According to information obtained by Al Mezan, Gaza’s six mills have run out of the wheat grain stocks and decreased their working hours by half. Livestock and animal breeders have also made plans to reduce their production in order to avoid dramatic losses due to death of their birds and animals or high prices of animal feed.
Israel has continued to close all of Gaza’s crossings and prevent free movement for people, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the Strip. In particular, tens of thousands families who houses were destroyed by the Israeli forces continue to suffer from the lack of construction materials. This situation foils the efforts to improve the economic and social conditions in Gaza, especially throughout reducing poverty and unemployment rates which have reached points that are among the lowest internationally.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its concern by the situation described above. It strongly condemns the collective punishment measures imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, which affects civilian life, but particularly impacts heavily upon the poor, the sick and children. Al Mezan asserts that the ongoing Israeli siege and the restriction of the movement of civilians and commodities; including construction materials, food, health-related materials, provides yet further evidence that the siege of Gaza is continuing and devastating the human rights of its population.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community to intervene to secure a full lifting of the Israeli illegal siege on Gaza. Movement of people and commodities in and from the Gaza Strip must be ensured without restrictions. The international community must not tolerate the siege measures, nor should it accept an ‘easing’ of the siege, which has proved to represent only an entrenching of the siege.
Government says decision to end trade ban on products such as furniture and textiles aimed at strengthening Gaza economy
Harriet Sherwood, 8 December 2010
The security cabinet approved the move today after increasing demands for action by the international community in recent months.
The loosening of the exports moratorium will happen in two phases, according to an Israeli official.
The first – which will begin immediately but be implemented in stages – will cover agricultural products, furniture, textiles and ceramics. No details were given on the second phase.
There will be no change to the ban on allowing construction materials to enter Gaza freely. Thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged in the war almost two years ago have not been rebuilt or repaired due to the scarcity of building materials, which Israel argues could be used by militant groups for military purposes.
Since Israel eased its embargo on consumer goods six months ago under international pressure following the deadly assault on an aid flotilla trying to reach Gaza, the export ban has prevented significant recovery of local factories and small businesses.
Only limited cargoes of strawberries and flowers destined for Europe have been allowed to leave Gaza.
An Israeli government statement said: “The hope is to strengthen the Gaza economy. The civilians in Gaza, like the Israelis, are victims of the authoritarian Hamas regime that brutally oppresses the people of Gaza and targets Israeli civilians on our side of the frontier.”
Tony Blair, the representative of the Middle East Quartet of the EU, US, UN and Russia, welcomed today’s move.
“Allowing exports … will help strengthen the legitimate private sector and alleviate some of the hardship faced by local businessmen,” Blair said. “There is, of course, still much more to do for the people of Gaza, not least in the area of construction, water and power.”
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem also welcomed the move but said the true test would be in its implementation.
“Recovery will be a slow process,” the group said, pointing out that “in the past, even while allowing import and export, Israel placed arbitrary restrictions that impaired trade”.
It described Israeli control over Gaza’s borders as “collective punishment of the population”.
Omar Shaban, a Gazan economist, said the move to allow exports was “major progress”, adding: “For the economy to operate, we need two-way trading. This will complete the circle.”