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Israel Urged To Lift Crippling Restrictions Imposed On Gaza

A senior United Nations humanitarian official on Wednesday urged the Israeli Government to lift restrictions imposed on the free movement of people and goods in the Palestine territory of Gaza Strip.

James W. Rawley, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, made the appeal as he met with Palestinian farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods have been ruined by such measures.

According to a statement issued Wednesday, Rawley learned first-hand about the impact of the Israel-imposed restrictions on Palestinian livelihoods as he led a visit of several humanitarian agencies to Gaza. Rawley is also the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

The visit to Gaza comes as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a new update, pointing out the longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to, from and within Gaza have continued to undermine the living conditions of 1.7 million people.

"Many of the current restrictions, which were originally imposed in the early 1990's, were intensified in June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade by Israel," the OCHA update stated.

Noting that some of the restrictions have been subsequently eased since 2010, the update stressed that the restrictions still in place have reduced access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupted family life, and undermined the people's hopes for a secure and prosperous future.

"While there has been some improvement in access to land and sea areas following the 21 November 2012 ceasefire agreement, only a full lifting of restrictions on access, as well as on exports and transfers of produce, will enable recovery of the fishing and agricultural sectors and the livelihoods of those who depend upon them," Rawley said in statement.

The Humanitarian Coordinator said while Israel has legitimate security concerns, any response to them, including limitations on the free movement of people and goods, must comply with international law.

"Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have the capacity to develop their communities and to build a sustainable local economy. Only the full lifting of these long-term restrictions will enable them to do so," he added.

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