26 August 2015, The Tablet

Catholic and Christian charities call for immediate end to Israel’s Gaza blockage

The Catholic charities Pax Christi and Trócaire are among 35 international aid agencies to call for an end to Israel’s blockade on the Gaza strip.

An additional 485,000 people have signed an online petition calling on world leaders to press Israel to end the blockade and in particular to lift restrictions on construction material.

Other charities that have signed the petition include Christian Aid and Oxfam.

Today marks the anniversary of the ceasefire between the Israeli government and Palestinian armed groups that ended 50 days of conflict. In a press release Christian Aid said that 19,000 homes were destroyed and 100,000 people made homeless during the fighting. But it said that Israeli restrictions on building materials had caused delays and reconstruction had only begun on 2,000 homes.

Wood, steel bars and cement are among construction materials restricted from entering the Gaza Strip.

Cafod, the Catholic aid arm of the Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, was not a signatory, but earlier this week called for an urgent review of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), which it said had failed.

Eilidh MacPherson, CAFOD Campaigns Manager, said: “At the current rate of materials entering Gaza, the United Nations estimates that reconstruction could take 30 years. After a wasted year, it is time for politicians to work for a better system.”

CAFOD has urged supporters to write to their MPs calling for the British government to conduct an international review of the GRM.

William Bell, Christian Aid's Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel and the Palestinians, said Gaza’s future looked bleak.

“With sewage spewing onto pavements, electricity and water supplies still severely limited and schools that look more like bomb-sites than places children get an education, hope is dwindling,” he said. “The blockade has helped to create some of the highest unemployment and aid dependency levels in the world, making the lives of 1.8 million civilians miserable, and needs to end now.”

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