With a ceasefire holding, Oxfam sees an opportunity to break the cycle of violence and lift the blockade once and for all.
In a new briefing note, Beyond Ceasefire: Ending the Blockade of Gaza, Oxfam outlines concrete, specific measures that the international community and Government of Israel should take to finally bring an end to the five-year-old blockade that has devastated Gaza’s farming and fishing industries, shut down nearly 60 percent of Gaza’s businesses, cost billions in trade, and pushed 80 percent of Gaza’s people into an unsustainable reliance on humanitarian aid.
Oxfam’s Country Director Nishant Pandey said:
“The international community can no longer accept the abnormality of blockade as a fact of life in Gaza. The current negotiations between Hamas and the Government of Israel represent an unprecedented opportunity – people in Gaza need more than ceasefire, they need an end to the blockade for good.”
Oxfam’s Head of Policy for the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel Martin Hartberg said:
“Oxfam has been working for the past five years to help improve the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, but as long as the blockade remains in place we are stuck using buckets to bail out a sinking ship.
“It is up to Israeli, Palestinian, and world leaders to make the lasting changes people need. In addition to a complete cessation of violence by both sides, Palestinians in Gaza should be allowed to securely move between Gaza and the West Bank, build trade networks, and reduce dependence on international aid. So long as Palestinians in Gaza remain isolated, the prospects of peace for Israelis and Palestinians remain distant and the chances for economic recovery in Gaza ever more remote.”
In the briefing note, Oxfam is calling on the world leaders to:
1. Press the Government of Israel to immediately end its military enforcement of the land and sea buffer-zone and find alternative means to protect its border with Gaza, which do not harm civilians;
2. Deploy a well-resourced international inspection force mandated to monitor and secure the opening of all crossings, including Rafah crossing and tunnels, in line with international law;
3. Support the rebuilding of the Karni cargo terminal and the opening a new sea port, ensuring commercial goods freely enter and leave Gaza;
4. Press the Government of Israel to facilitate the free movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank including the opening of transit systems.
Notes to Editors
• Oxfam staff in Jerusalem and Gaza are available for interviews and briefings on information contained in the “Beyond Ceasefire” paper and the impact of the recent escalation, ceasefire, and blockade on Oxfam projects and partners.
• Due to the restrictions on cultivating land in the so-called “buffer zone” – an Israeli imposed and enforced no-go area within Gaza’s perimeter that comprises 35% of Gaza’s arable land – annual agricultural yield in Gaza has been reduced by 75,000 metric tons. This represents a loss of US $50.2 million each year for farmers in Gaza.
• Oxfam’s partners UAWC and PCHR are working to protect fishermen and farmers who cannot safely access the land and sea. UAWC is providing support for fishermen to help repair boats damaged by Israeli naval fire by providing them with new fishing gear. PCHR is working to provide legal aid and counseling to fishermen who have been arrested and to help get their boats confiscated by the Israeli navy back.
• Since the ceasefire, some Palestinian farmers have without incident been accessing areas as close as 100 meters from the perimeter fence while others have reportedly been shot at for entering a no-go area. Before the ceasefire, farmers were prevented from accessing land within 500 meters from the fence, with restrictions on access in areas up to 1,000-1,500 meters in some places.
• Since the ceasefire, some Palestinian fishermen have been allowed to fish up to 6 nautical miles from shore, while others have been reportedly shot at within the previously enforced limit of 3 nautical miles. Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinian fishermen are granted access to 20 nautical miles, though this has been progressively pushed back due to the sea blockade.
Information Source: WEBWIRE