Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, the Strip has been blockaded by Israeli authorities. Though there are no Israeli forces in Gaza itself, Israel remains the occupying power as it has continuing effective control over the territory due to the complete closure by land, sea and air. Israel controls all access, with the exception of the short border with Egypt. As such, in line with international law, Gaza is still under occupation by Israel and the primary obligation for the humanitarian needs of those in that territory rests with Israel.
This 11-year closure has had a devastating impact on the people of Gaza:
- Unemployment in Gaza is among the highest in the world at 44%, rising to 60% among those aged 15-29,
- Over 96% of water is undrinkable,
- 80% of the shoreline is polluted by untreated sewage,
- 80% of people dependent on foreign assistance,
- 40% rate of poverty,
- Chronic electricity shortage, with people only receiving around 3 hours of electricity a day,
- Health system on brink of collapse.
This crisis was entirely avoidable and indeed was predicted by the UN and others. In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unliveable by 2020. Then, in July 2017, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Robert Piper, revised the projection, stating that the “unliveability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago”. That echoes the warnings of some organisations on the ground who are already reporting that Gaza is unliveable now.
As a result of all this, as the World Health Organisation has warned, health services in Gaza are “on the brink of collapse”, with a drastic deficit in medical disposables and essential drugs. 42% of essential medicines have been completed depleted and there are shortages of electricity and fuel for generators to keep the hospitals running. For those who need urgent treatment outside of Gaza, Israeli permit approval is needed, but 2017 saw the lowest rate of permit approvals for Palestinian patients since records began. According to Medical Aid for Palestinians, 54 patients are known to have died following denial or delay to such permits in 2017.
With the situation growing worse by the day and with no international agreement or plan to address the very real crisis in Gaza, the people of Gaza cannot wait for the outcome of a stalled and increasingly remote peace process to see an end to their suffering.
As such, the UK Government should:
- Call for the lifting of the illegal closure of Gaza,
- Encourage Israel to fulfil its obligations to the welfare of the people of Gaza,
- Pursue accountability for all violations of international law and human rights law.
- Support development of vital infrastructure in Gaza, specifically addressing urgent needs of healthcare, electricity and sanitation,
- Support the UN OCHA Humanitarian Fund appeal for Gaza.