A Palestinian child at the Rafah crossing, Gaza
A Palestinian child at the Rafah crossing, Gaza. Photo by Reuters
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Israel's seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip is the "longest in history," according to the newly-appointed United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, as quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

Speaking at a conference in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis on Wednesday, Krahenbuhl said that the blockade was being used to collectively punish the Palestinian people – an issue that would be the focal point of his future discussions in the region.

During his first visit to Gaza, Krahenbuhl urged world leaders to help the Palestinians end the Israeli blockade, which was imposed on Gaza soon after the Hamas Islamic Movement seized control of the enclave by force in 2007.

"It is clear that this amounts to a very extreme form and illegal collective punishment that will be also at the heart of all of the advocacy work that UNRWA carries out," Krahenbuhl said.

He added that the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave were clearly apparent.

UNRWA currently provides aid to some 800,000 refugees in the territory, as compared to some 80,000 in 2000, Krahenbuhl said. He promised that UNRWA, despite its limited budget, would do its best to reach more poor people in Gaza.

Krahenbuhl added that he would brief Israeli officials on conditions in Gaza, noting that the UNRWA was determined to find a solution to the crisis.