Quartet Complicit in Gaza Siege: Oxfam

Six leading British aid groups accused the Quartet of complicity over Israel’s crippling, months-long blockade on the Gaza Strip’s 1.6 million Palestinians, reported the Guardian on Friday, May 2.

"The collective complacency of the quartet is putting the future of the people of Gaza on the line," Oxfam director Barbara Stocking said.

The groups, which also include Christian Aid, said the Quartet must pressure Israel to end its crippling aid on Gaza population.

"It is well within the power of the EU and the US to make this happen … They should insist on an immediate end to Gaza’s suffering."

Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas took control of the territory last June.

It has completely locked down the area, home to 1.6 million Palestinians, since January, banning food and fuel shipment supplies.

The crippling Israeli siege has forced the UN agency for Palestinian refugees to halt food aid to the Gaza population over the lack of fuel.

"We need the fuel, humanitarian supplies and essential equipment withheld by Israel for more than nine months to ease this human suffering and avert a disaster," said Stocking.

The Quartet, which groups the US, the UN, Russia and the EU, on Friday expressed "deep concern" over the situation in Gaza.

"The Quartet called for continued emergency and humanitarian assistance and the provision of essential services to Gaza without obstruction," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement following the Quartet’s meeting in London.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet’s envoy, said the situation in Gaza was "terrible."

He, however, said that before the Israeli blockade could be lifted, it was essential that rocket fire from the strip into Israel.

Palestinian resistance groups have agreed to a proposed truce with Israel, that would include a halt to rocket fire in return to a cessation of Israeli attacks in Gaza.

Israel has rejected the proposed truce.

Critical

This comes as a UN report warned that destitution and food insecurity among the 1.6 million Gazans have reached an unprecedentedly critical level.

"Hunger today is widespread in Gaza on the ground and it will not be long before we face a growing problem of malnutrition in Gaza," Kirstie Campbell of the World Food Program told The Independent.

The report, prepared by the WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the refugee agency UNRWA, said Gaza population has passed the internationally-agreed threshold.

The report, whose findings have not been published, said half of Gaza’s population bought food on credit between January and March 2008 and that one third stopped paying utility bills.

"Many people are buying lower quality cheaper foods and reducing their consumption of fresh fruit, vegetable and animal protein to save money and also reducing their portion sizes," said the report, whose findings have not been published.

The report said that seventy percent of Gazans are at a "deep poverty" income level of $1.20 per head per day or less.

"At the moment we are less and less able to assist what is a growing need," said WFP’s Campbell.

(IslamOnline.net and agencies)

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