By Haaretz Service, Haaretz.com, June 29, 2009
The Red Cross released a damning report Monday on the effects of the Israel-led blockade on the Gaza Strip, describing the 2-year-old measure as having trapped the coastal territory's 1.5 million residents "in despair."
The international humanitarian organization lamented the fact that the blockade, imposed after Hamas seized control of Gaza two years ago, was impeding reconstruction efforts after Israel's offensive in the Strip at the beginning of the year.
"Gaza neighborhoods particularly hard hit by the Israeli strikes will continue to look like the epicenter of a massive earthquake unless vast quantities of cement, steel and other building materials are allowed into the territory for reconstruction," the report said.
According to the Red Cross, Gaza's poverty is directly linked to the blockade that is "strangling" the local economy.
The organization lamented Israel's halting of Red Cross-supported visits by about 900 Gaza families to relatives detained in Israel.
But no mention was made of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is widely believed to be held in Gaza by the Islamist Hamas. Shalit's parents and the Red Cross have been denied access to the soldier.
In addition, the Red Cross lamented the shortage of basic medicines in Gaza. It noted that the territory's hospitals and health clinics depend for supplies on the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Health, which is based in the West Bank, but the supply chain often breaks down due to poor cooperation.
"Complex and lengthy Israeli import procedures also hamper the reliable supply of even the most basic items such as painkillers and X-ray film developers," the report said.