UN urges Israel to end Gaza blockade

Published April 18th, 2014 - 08:33 GMT

A UN official has renewed calls on Israel to lift its seven-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, saying the regime must stop the “collective punishment” of the Palestinians residing in the enclave.

In his first trip to Gaza on Thursday, the new Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Pierre Krahenbuhl said the Israeli blockade on the Palestinian land “amounts to an illegal collective punishment.”

“The first thing, of course, you see of Gaza is the fence around it; a reminder of the blockade which…has lasted as long as some of the most infamous sieges of contemporary history,” added the UNRWA official.

Krahenbuhl further voiced alarm over the deteriorating living conditions in Gaza, saying the UN agency currently provides humanitarian aid to some 800,000 refugees in the Israeli-besieged sliver.

In similar comments on March 25, former UNRWA commissioner-general for Palestinian refugees Filippo Grandi urged Israel to end the crippling blockade of the Palestinian territory, saying Gazans are grappling with poverty due to the obstruction of exports and imports.

Tel Aviv imposed an all-out land, aerial, and naval blockade on Gaza in June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standards of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

The siege has turned the densely populated coastal sliver, home to some 1.7 million Palestinians, into the largest open-air prison in the world.

The Israeli military frequently targets Palestinians along the border with Gaza, which has remained literally cut off from the outside world because of the crippling Israeli blockade.

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