Geneva - The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains dire as the 17th year of the Israeli blockade draws to a close, said Euro-Med Monitor in a statement, urging all concerned parties to put pressure on Israel to end its illegal blockade of the Strip.
In its annual report on the blockade, entitled “A generation under blockade,” Euro-Med Monitor noted that the Israeli blockade has impoverished more than 61% of Gaza’s total population of about two million and 380 thousand people. Moreover, it has disrupted the work of approximately 47% of workers and left nearly 53% of the population facing food insecurity.
Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza through the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings have remained in place, with exit permits primarily limited to humanitarian cases and only following lengthy security checks. Under security pretexts, Israeli authorities continue to prohibit the entry of a large number of essential materials and equipment for the health, commercial, and production sectors in Gaza.
Over the last year, Israeli authorities granted about 17,000 workers from Gaza permits to work inside Israel after lengthy security and administrative procedures. This will not, however, alleviate the severity of the Strip’s economic crisis, as the consequences of Israel’s blockade have severely harmed all economic and humanitarian sectors, causing long-term damage that requires the lifting of all restrictions imposed on those sectors.
“Entering its eighteenth year, the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip reflects an abject moral and humanitarian failure on the part of all United Nations and international entities, who appear to be indifferent to the suffering of two million people being collectively punished in a confined and isolated area,” said Victoria Ceretti, a researcher at Euro-Med Monitor. “After seventeen years of blockade, Gaza residents are not looking for limited and short-term measures to improve their living conditions, but rather for an end to all restrictions that prevent them from enjoying the same natural rights as those living outside the Strip.”
At least eight patients from the Strip, including three children, died in 2022 as a result of Israeli authorities’ delays or refusals to grant them permits to exit through the Erez crossing for medical treatment. The report highlights the drastic decline in the health sector due to Israel’s blockade, with essential medicine supply dropping to 40%, medical consumables to 32%, and laboratory and blood bank supplies to 60%. Israeli authorities also prohibit the import of critical medical devices such as diagnostic medical imaging equipment, as well as the spare parts required to repair damaged medical devices.
The economic and productive sectors are facing complex crises due to Israeli import and export restrictions, with hundreds of factories closing and thousands of workers laid off as a result of raw material shortages and ongoing fuel and electricity crises. The fishing industry was also significantly harmed as a result of Israeli attacks and restrictions, whether by direct attacks on fishermen’s boats—which occurred at a rate of 30 attacks per month in 2022—or indirect attacks such as the ban on exporting fish from Gaza to the West Bank, which resulted in huge financial losses for fishermen.
From 2006 to 2022, Gaza’s agricultural sector suffered losses of approximately $1.3 billion as a result of the blockade and multiple Israeli military attacks; those who were affected received only 30% compensation. Throughout 2022, the electricity crisis in the Strip also persisted, with residents receiving power for only 12 hours a day in the best-case scenario. The availability of electricity is dependent on both the Kerem Shalom crossing staying open to import fuel (which Israel can close at any time for security reasons), as well as the continued funding for the fuel needed to run the Strip’s sole power plant; for years, Qatar has been providing funds for fuel.
Relevant international conventions expressly prohibit collective punishment, and require the occupying power to meet the humanitarian needs of the occupied people without any political or security strings attached. Israeli authorities must lift all restrictions on the Gaza Strip, end the policy of collective punishment against the population, and refrain from using the security and political situation as an excuse to continue restricting the natural rights of Palestinians in the Strip.
All relevant UN and international parties must fulfil their duties in protecting Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, put pressure on the Israeli authorities to stop all forms of collective punishment, and require Israel as an occupying power to uphold all obligations towards Gaza’s population, as sanctioned by the relevant international norms.