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The International Committee of the Red Cross warned yesterday that six months after Operation Cast Lead, Israel's large-scale offensive in the Gaza Strip, the enclave's inhabitants were being prevented from "rebuilding their lives."

The closure of the crossings points - allowing in only a limited amount of basic humanitarian goods - was also causing overloads on the run-down water, sanitation and health infrastructures in Gaza, it said.

Water pipes, cement, painkillers and X-ray film developing materials were among the items lacking in Gaza, which "is cut off from the outside world."

Also, the economy has virtually collapsed, causing rampant poverty. The ICRC demanded that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza, imposed since shortly before the Islamist Hamas movement overtook the strip two years ago, and let goods and people move more freely.

At the same time, Palestinian rocket fire into Israel was placing thousands in the Jewish state's south at risk, the report said.