Sunday, December 21, 2008

Israeli blockade 'forces Palestinians to search rubbish dumps for food'

(Cartoon by Carlos Latuff)

UN fears irreversible damage is being done in Gaza as new statistics reveal the level of deprivation

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
The Observer, Sunday 21 December 2008

"......"Things have been getting worse and worse," said Chris Gunness of the agency yesterday. "It is the first time we have been seeing people picking through the rubbish like this looking for things to eat. Things are particularly bad in Gaza City where the population is most dense.

"Because Gaza is now operating as a 'tunnel economy' and there is so little coming through via Israeli crossings, it is hitting the most disadvantaged worst."

Gunness also expressed concern about the state of Gaza's infrastructure, including its water and sewerage systems, which have not been maintained properly since Israel began blocking shipments of concrete into Gaza, warning of the risk of the spread of communicable diseases both inside and outside of Gaza.

"This is not a humanitarian crisis," he said. "This is a political crisis of choice with dire humanitarian consequences."......

"We are here to represent the Qatar government and people," said delegation member Aed al-Kahtani. "We will look into the needs of our brothers in Gaza, and find out what is the most appropriate way to bring in aid."

The arrival of the delegation reflects the growing anger in the Arab world over the Gaza siege, directed at Israel but also at Egypt, which has allowed the border crossings at the southern end of the Strip to remain sealed.

On Friday, thousands of people joined a rally in Beirut organised by Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement against Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Addressing the Beirut crowd, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem called on Arab and Islamic governments to act to help lift the Gaza blockade, and urged Egypt to take an "historic stance" by opening its border crossing with Gaza.

"Silence on the [Gaza] blockade is disgraceful. Silence on the blockade amounts to participation in the [Israeli] occupation," Kassem said."

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