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EU must press Israel on why the 'easing' of Gaza blockade never happened - MEP

December 9, 2010 7:18 PM
Originally published by Liz Lynne

Euro MP Liz Lynne says the EU should take action after a joint appeal by an alliance of aid charities challenging Israel over the continued blockade of essential supplies to Gaza.

The Israeli government promised an 'easing' of the blockade which kept out essential humanitarian supplies from the territory in June, after outrage followed an attack on a convoy of aid ships which left 10 dead.

But charity workers say they are in despair as week after week, only half the essential goods Gaza needs to feed its 1.5 million people are being let through, while the absolute ban on exporting anything other than strawberries has been maintained.

A long time campaigner on human rights issues, Liz Lynne is a member of the Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council in the European Parliament.

Liz Lynne said: "Hopes rose earlier this year that as peace talks with the Palestinian government resumed and with apparently serious promises being made that the humanitarian crisis would begin to diminish.

"But incredibly, after five months very little seems to have changed. Israel promised to allow in cement and construction materials to rebuild the ruins from the attack two years ago, but this has not happened.

"They promised to open more crossings to process more goods, but this has not happened.

"The statistics are grim - the UN estimates that the territory needs 670,000 truckloads of construction materials to rebuild the homes, shops and factories left in ruins, but only an average of 715 a month have been let in since this 'easing' was announced.

"Of course Israel has a right to maintain her security and check that no weapons or dangerous materials are getting through, but the continued squeeze on basic goods and food does not help security.

"It is bizarre and sad that Israel is behaving in this way, risking the support of her allies and friends.

"The EU and its external action service should be stepping up diplomatic pressure on Israel to honour its obligations under international law - and encourage the Obama administration to be more assertive.

"Renewed trade co-operation between the EU and Israel will be impossible until action is taken.

"The conflict in Israel and Palestine is a huge engine for fundamentalism and terrorists around the world. Progress to a sustainable and genuine peace settlement could make such a difference.

"The EU High Representative Baroness Ashton must put pressure on the Israeli government to answer the questions over the appalling suffering still being imposed on 1.5 million civilians in Gaza."

ENDS

Note: On June 20, after international pressure, Israel announced plans to 'ease' its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. This included:

• Publishing a list of items not permitted into Gaza and allowing all other items to enter;

• Expanding and accelerating the inflow of construction materials for international projects;

• Expanding operations at the crossings and opening more crossings;

• Streamlining entry/exit permits for medical and humanitarian reasons and for aid workers;

• Facilitating the movement of people in additional ways as conditions and security allow.

Many hoped this would lead to a major change and alleviate the plight of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. However, five months later, an alliance of charities including Amnesty, Oxfam and Cafod reports few signs of real improvement on the ground in these five areas.

Israel has so far only approved only 7 per cent of the building plan for UNRWA's projects in Gaza, and of that 7 per cent only a small fraction of the necessary material has been allowed in. The UN says Gaza needs 670,000 truckloads of construction material, while only an average of 715 of these truckloads have been received per month since June.

Liz Lynne's Lib Dem colleague Chris Davies MEP has been monitoring aid shipments into the Gaza strip. In one recent week, of 2540 trucks needed for food and consumables, only 1083 were let in. 1500 tonnes of cooking gas are needed weekly, but only 825 tonnes were let through. 4.9 million litres of diesel fuel are needed for Gaza's power stations, but less than 1.9 million litres were let in.

In 2008, Liz Lynne MEP co-authored a Written Declaration in the European Parliament on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+WDECL+P6-DCL-2008-0047+0+DOC+WORD+V0//EN&language=EN