The siege or blockade of Gaza started in June 2007. The blockade was supported by the governments of Egypt and the USA, among other nations. It consists of a land blockade along Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel, and a sea blockade maintained by the Israeli navy from three nautical miles offshore. It immediately followed the 2006-2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority following the election of Hamas to the Palestinian government.
Prior to 2007 blockade, Israeli military has already imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip and closure of the Gaza International Airport, following the The Al-Aqsa Intifada which broke out in September 2000. The blockade worsened after the creation of a  ‘buffer zone’ in September 2001, that would seal all entry and exit points in the Palestinian Territories. After 9 October, 2001, movement of people and goods across the ‘Green Line’ dividing the West Bank from Israel, and between the Gaza Strip and Israel, was halted, and a complete internal closure was effected on November 14, 2001.
More than 1.5 million Gazans have been cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty. The ongoing siege or blockade of Gaza punishes the entire population, young and old, by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials, oils, and virtualy any other basic supplies that are essential for a living.
The matter were made worse following the operation “Cast Lead”, from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009, in which intensive Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed civilian buildings and infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, the water and electricity systems. Thousands of Palestinian homes were destroyed or severely damaged. An estimated 280 of the 641 schools in Gaza were damaged and 18 were destroyed.
Hospitals have also been badly affected by the military offensive and the blockade. Trucks of medical aid provided by the World Health Organization have been repeatedly refused entry to Gaza without explanation by Israeli officials.
Patients with serious medical conditions that cannot be treated in Gaza continue to be prevented or delayed from leaving Gaza by the Israeli authorities – since the closure of crossings leading into and out of Gaza, patients have been made to apply for permits, but these permits are frequently denied. On 1 November 2009, Samir al-Nadim, a father of three children, died after his exit from Gaza for a heart operation was delayed by 22 days.
A report by more than 80 humanitarian organisations has warned that the health of 1.4 million people is being put at risk by the ongoing Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. The organisations, which includes the World Health Organisation and UN agencies, said more than one-fifth of sick Palestinians who needed to leave the territory for treatment in Israel had either been refused or had their applications delayed.
The report cited the case of a student, Fidaa Hijji, who died of cancer while waiting for Israeli permission to go to the hospital for a bone marrow operation. Repeated applications to cross the border were ignored even though Hijji, who was 18 when her cancer was diagnosed in 2007, had confirmed medical appointments. Permission for her entry to Israel was finally given a day after she died last month.
The UN humanitarian co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories, Max Gaylard said, “It is causing ongoing deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health. It is hampering the provision of medical supplies and the training of health staff, and it is preventing patients with serious medical conditions from getting timely specialised treatment.” Twenty-nine patients died last year awaiting referral.
One year on, families are still living in temporary accommodation. Mohammed and Halima Mslih and their four young children fled their home in the village of Juhor al-Dik, south of Gaza City, during the conflict one year ago. While they were away their home was demolished by Israeli army bulldozers. “When we returned everything was broken. People were giving us food because we had nothing,” said Mohammed Mslih.
Six months after the ceasefire, the family was still living in a flimsy nylon tent and they have only now been able to construct a simple permanent home. The family fear, however, that continuing Israeli military incursions may destroy the little they have left.
Unemployment in Gaza is spiralling as those businesses that remain struggle to survive under the blockade. In December 2009, the UN reported that unemployment in Gaza was over 40 per cent.
Israel has combined the blockade of Gaza’s land borders with a sea blockade of Gaza’s ports. Israel has captured a number of vessels providing aid for Gaza, claiming that they may be providing goods that may be used to build arms. Cynthia McKinney and Mairead Maguire were captured by Israel attempting to sail to Gaza and deported. However, the supplies McKinney and Maguire were carrying on board were later delivered to Gaza over land by truck. The sea blockade has caused the “near collapse” of the Gaza fishing industry. Israel allows fishermen to travel only 3 nautical miles off shore, reduced from 6 nm in 2007. One fisherman who went outside these limits was forced to strip down to his underwear and swim to the naval vessel. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken in for questioning. B’Tselem has released a report documenting the “continual shooting at, abuse of, and humiliation of” Palestinian fishermen. The Israeli Navy’s response was that it was checking for smuggled weapons. The Navy reports they intercepted the craft entering Gaza from Egypt.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has estimated that Gaza fishermen need to journey at least 12-15 nautical miles from shore to catch larger shoals, and sardines in particular are 6 nm offshore. Shoals closer to shore have been depleted. The total catch in 1999 was nearly 4,000 tons in pre-blockade 1999. This was reduced to 2,700 tons in 2008. In the 90s, the Gaza fishing industry was worth $10 million annually or 4% of the total Palestinian economy; this was halved between 2001 and 2006. 45,000 Palestinians were employed in the fishing industry, employed in jobs such as catching fish, repairing nets and selling fish. Fish also provided much-needed animal protein to Gazans diet.
Numerous aid agencies have reported that basic supplies have been seized by Israel. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs “everything from wheelchairs, dry food items, and crayons, to stationary, soccer balls, and musical instruments” is being stopped. It was reported that the international aid group Mercy Corps, was blocked from sending 90 tons of macaroni and other foodstuffs. Israel was also reported to have prevented aid groups from sending in other items, such as paper, crayons, tomato paste and lentils. Because of an Israeli ban on the importation of construction materials (such as cement and steel) Gazans are having to rebuild their homes entirely with mud. Aid agencies say that food waits on trucks and in warehouses, and many basic items are rejected by Israel as “luxuries” or are turned down for unexplained reasons. Tin cans are banned because the tin might be melted down, making it hard for Gazan farmers to preserve their vegetables.
Other than Israel-Gaza Wall, there is also another wall dividing the Gaza Strip and Egypt, built after 2004.The barrier runs along the entire land border of the Gaza Strip. It is made up of wire fencing with posts, sensors and buffer zones on lands bordering Israel, and concrete and steel walls on lands bordering Egypt.
The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is 7 miles long. In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. As part of that treaty, a 100-meter-wide strip of land known as the Philadelphi corridor was established as a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt. Israel built a barrier there during the Palestinian uprisings of the early 2000s. It was made mostly of corrugated sheet metal, with stretches of concrete topped with barbed wire.
In 2005, when Israel decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt reached a military agreement regarding the border, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty. The agreement specified that 750 Egyptian border guards would be deployed along the length of the border, and both Egypt and Israel pledged to work together to stem terrorism, arms smuggling, and other illegal cross-border activities. In September 2005, following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, control of the Philadelphi corridor was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority. Under an agreement reached in November 2005, the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah was responsible for monitoring the Rafah Border Crossing. From November 2005 until July 2007, the Rafah Crossing was jointly controlled by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the European Union monitoring Palestinian compliance on the Gaza side.
While Israel was still in occupation of the Gaza Strip, it constructed a barrier along the Egyptian border, with a 200-300 meter buffer zone in the Philadelphi corridor. The barrier along the Egyptian border consists of concrete and steel walls and is over eight metres high and equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunneling, adding to the already existent steel wall running the length of the border with Egypt. Construction of the concrete wall commenced in 2004 and completed in 2005, before the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
The legacy of Operation Cast Lead is a living nightmare for one and a half million Palestinians squeezed into one of the most overcrowded and wretched stretches of land on the planet. And as Israel and Egypt maintain a near total blockade against Gaza, the misery deepens by the day.
This is not only shocking in humanitarian terms. It is not in Israel’s or Egypt’s interest, either.
And what has international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing.
source by lifeline4gaza