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Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
10 July 2007
FOOD, FUEL, CASH REACH THE GAZA STRIP, BUT CONTINUED CLOSURES
THREATEN ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
(New York: 10 July 2007): The passage of humanitarian imports into Gaza has helped meet 70 per cent of minimum food and other supply needs in the period from 28 June to 5 July, up from 21 per cent from the prior week, but with three quarters of Gazan factories closed or operating at 20 per cent capacity, the direct livelihood of 30,000 people is in jeopardy and major business interests are losing at least $500,000 a day.
Border restrictions are also preventing agricultural exports from reaching the market, depriving farmers of income, while an overabundance of tomatoes, melons and local apples has caused a drop in their value inside Gaza. More than 1,300 containers of various commercial materials destined for the territory are stuck at Israeli ports, due to the cancellation of the Gaza customs code by the Israeli Customs Authority. Essential items like milk powder, baby formula and vegetable oil are currently in short supply.
“We need to see all crossings at least as operational as they were before 9 June, or risk facing serious social, economic and humanitarian concerns,” today said John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
In a positive development, cash entering the territory has allowed the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of some civil servants, but government workers hired after December 2005 – an estimated 20,000 to 31,000 individuals – still have not received the money they are owed, raising concerns about potential tension.
Efforts are being made by the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to install two conveyor belts at Kerem Shalom and to widen the area for truck-transfer operations, which is expected to allow as many as 150 truckloads of goods to pass through from Egypt, up from the limit of 20 truckloads. Meanwhile, the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline was opened during the week to allow diesel, petrol and cooking gas to come through, and the Karni crossing was open for wheat grain imports.
As for the movement of people, the 10 June closure of the border at Rafah leaves Kerem Shalom as the only viable crossing-point for Palestinians wanting to re-enter the Gaza Strip from Egypt. So far, the Kerem Shalom crossing remains closed to the 6,000 or more Palestinians seeking to return from the Egyptian cities of Al Arish and Sheik Zouied, while patients on the Gaza side are unable to enter Egypt and other countries to receive medical treatment. A further 400 to 700 others are stranded in the open near the Egyptian-Rafah border.
“The United Nations country team in Egypt is working to deliver assistance to those stranded,” said Mr. Holmes. “But the importance of lifting current border restrictions cannot be over-emphasized.”
For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Dizery Salim, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570. OCHA press releases are available at