British aid agencies denounce 'collective punishment' in Gaza

By staff writers
March 6, 2008

A group of senior British development and human rights agencies, including Christian Aid and CAFOD, have said the humanitarian situation in Gaza is worse now than at any time since its occupation began in 1967, and have denounced Israel's "collective punishment" policy.

The agencies are labelling the Israeli blockade of the territory since Hamas came to power "unacceptable" and are calling on the UK Government to condemn it publicly and to press for a new strategy for the war-torn area, along with the international community.

Poverty and unemployment levels in Gaza are rising, hospitals are suffering 12-hours-a-day power cuts and the water and sewage systems are close to collapse, points out the report.

It says that the severity of the situation has "increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on the movements of people and goods in response to the Hamas take-over of Gaza and to indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel."

The coalition of groups comprises Amnesty International, CARE International UK, CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development), Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save The Children UK and Trocaire.

The influential network described Israel's blockade of Gaza as a "collective punishment" of the entire Gazan population of 1.5 million, concluding that the blockade policy is unacceptable, illegal and fails to provide security for Palestinians and Israelis.

The report comes after Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned both sides to "step back from the brink" in the worsening crisis over Gaza, report news agencies.

The Foreign Secretary said he was "deeply concerned" by the decision of the Palestinian Authority to break off negotiations with the Israeli government after its forces launched military strikes on Gaza at the weekend, reportedly claiming around 100 lives.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of CARE International UK, said: "The recent escalation in violence, both from rocket attacks and military strikes, will make life even more unbearable in Gaza.

He continued: "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."

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