Several U.N. agencies joined a group of international charities on Thursday in making a joint call for the immediate lifting of a six-year Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, and expressed hope that their move would increase pressure on the Jewish State to lift the siege.
"For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We, the undersigned, say with one voice: 'end the blockade now,'" the 50 organizations and agencies said in a joint statement.
"The government of Israel is facing mounting international criticism for the Gaza blockade and this unanimous statement from some of the most world's most respected international organizations is likely to increase pressure for the blockade to be lifted," they added.
The U.N. agencies signatory to the statement are the office of the Humanitarian Coordination/Resident Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The international aid and development signatories of the statement include Amnesty International, CARE International, Medicos del Mundo - Espana, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Premiere Urgence - Aide Medicale Internationale, Save the Children and Secours Islamique France.
Also on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded the lifting of the blockade in line with Security Council resolution 1860 that calls for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
Ban's spokesman said the U.N. chief "has consistently urged the Government of Israel to allow the free movement of people into and out of Gaza, to further liberalize imports, in particular of construction materials, to allow exports and to maintain a flow of approvals for further reconstruction works. At the same time, he has also stated that Israel's legitimate security concerns should be addressed."
On Wednesday, Valerie Amos, Under Secretary-General for U.N. Humanitarian Affairs, had also called for the lifting of the blockade, pointing out the devastating impact it continues to have on the lives and livelihoods of 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza.
Israel imposed the blockade in Gaza after Hamas, a radical Islamist group, came to power in the Palestinian territory in June 2007, ousting secularist Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.
Nonetheless, Israel recently eased its land blockade of the coastal strip, bowing to international pressures over a deadly Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010. The Jewish nation, however, still continued with its naval blockade and insists that it will continue to ban or restrict shipments of materials that could have military uses.
However, senior U.N. officials as well as the diplomatic Quartet - comprising the U.N., European Union, Russia and the United States - have repeatedly called over the past years for an end to the blockade, stating that while efforts to ease the closure were welcome, a full and immediate lifting was needed.
The closure continues to have a serious humanitarian impact on civilians and perpetuates an unsustainable and unacceptable situation for the population of Gaza. Palestinians are being forced to use tunnels to smuggle essential goods into the besieged territory from neighboring Egypt.
Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist organization due to its refusal to give up violence and recognize Israel. They refuse to engage in negotiations with Hamas, prefer to channel their aid to the Palestinians through Fatah-led Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank.
by RTT Staff Writer
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