Aid, faith, development and human rights organisations have launched an unprecedented joint call urging world leaders to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. The group of thirty-five NGOs blame the siege for the lack of reconstruction in the enclave a year after the 2014 Israeli offensive.
“It’s outrageous that a year on from the last Gaza war, not one home has been totally rebuilt and the world has left families to live in rubble,” said senior Avaaz campaigner Fadi Quran. “Governments are allowing Israel to violate the most basic humanitarian laws. Since the start of the blockade there have been three wars with hundreds of children killed.”
The campaign has attracted the support of renowned international organisations, including Oxfam, Action Against Hunger and Avaaz, to become the largest ever global public push to end the blockade of the Palestinian territory. A joint statement pointed out that a year after the conflict only 5 per cent of the 6.7 million tons of reconstruction materials needed to repair what was destroyed last summer in Gaza have been allowed in. At this rate, the NGOs noted, reconstruction could take 17 years.
“On the anniversary of the end of the conflict between the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups, the organisations are calling for construction materials like wood, steel bars and cement to be allowed into Gaza so that hospitals, schools and homes can be rebuilt urgently,” said the group’s statement. “Last year’s conflict saw over 19,000 homes destroyed, and left 100,000 people homeless. Donor governments have pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild Gaza but, a year on, Israeli restrictions on building materials continue to cause delays. Reconstruction has started on just over 2,000 of the 19,000 homes destroyed last year, and not a single home has been fully rebuilt.”
The NGOs drew attention to the destruction of 11 schools and universities and 253 local organisations. “One hundred and twenty thousand people still do not have access to the water and sewage network, with slow repairs to the 35,000 metres of pipelines damaged or destroyed,” the group explained. “The sewage situation in parts of Gaza is appalling, with overflowing lagoons and untreated waste running through the streets.”
The organisers of the joint call hold the Israeli government responsible for lifting the blockade, and Palestinian political parties’ failure to reconcile and prioritise reconstruction, as well as Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza, for the unacceptable delay. They also argued that the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have asserted repeatedly that the blockade is a violation of international law. “Indeed, there can never be justification for collective punishment of an entire population and leaving tens of thousands of families homeless, and hundreds of thousands of children without schools or health centres.”
The global citizens’ movement, Avaaz, said that more than 200,000 people have signed-up to the call online, and the number is increasing by the hour.