Red Cross Deputy Chief: More Than Half of Gaza Youth Rely on Foreign Aid

De Riedmatten says deadly raid on Gaza-bound flotilla highlights hardships endured by residents of the coastal territory.

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

Mathilde De Riedmatten, Deputy Head of the The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said on Monday that she was concerned about the living conditions in Gaza, stressing that more than half of the population under 18 is dependant on foreign aid.

"The ICRC is concerned about the fact that the 1.5 million people in the Strip are unable to live a normal and dignified life," De Reidman said, in an interview published by the organization.

A Palestinian man sits over the rubble of his destroyed shop following a blast at the house of a Hamas commander in Gaza on Aug. 2, 2010.Credit: AP

"Health-care facilities are suffering from the restrictions imposed by Israel on the transfer of medical equipment, building materials and many basic items needed for maintenance," she said, adding that the city's infrastructure, including water, sanitation and buildings are in desperate need of repair.

The Red Cross official said that Gaza was in a dire financial situation, in which more than 50 percent of its 1.5 million population under the age of 18 is dependant on foreign aid. "There is a crushing lack of prospects, and it is a constant struggle for them to maintain hope in the future," De Riedmatten said.

"The strict limits on imports and the almost absolute ban on exports imposed by Israel make economic recovery impossible," she said, stressing the damage caused to the agricultural branch from Israel's leveling of land and destruction of trees.

De Riedmatten also criticized civilian death rates in the coastal strip, saying that "security incidents in the area between Gaza and Israel frequently result in loss of life or in destruction of property or livelihoods."

She also slammed Israel's continuous blockade on the Gaza Strip, saying that although Israel eased its limitations on the strip, "restriction on the movement of people out of Gaza remains unchanged."

"Very few other people are allowed out of Gaza," De Riedmatten said, adding that "the entry of goods into Gaza is also still highly restricted, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the particular items allowed." The neutral humanitarian agency named imports of construction supplies and raw materials as some of the most important materials still severely lacking in the blockaded city.

Israel's raid on a Gaza aid flotilla in May 2010, in which nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed, highlighted acute hardships faced by the 1.5 million Gazans, due to the closure since 2007.

Following the incident, the ICRC said explicitly that Israel's blockade constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law embodied in the Geneva Conventions, an ICRC spokeswoman said. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.

Three weeks after the violent incidents surrounding the Gaza-bound flotilla, Israel decided to dramatically ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Under heavy international pressure the security cabinet decided to change the blockade policy.

Large quantities of building materials were permitted into the strip for projects with PA approval such as schools, clinics and water and sewage infrastructure. Building materials for homes in Khan Yunis and other Gazan towns were also be allowed in. All construction projects have been under close UN supervision to ensure that Hamas does not use the building material for fortifications and bunkers.

In November 2010, the European Union's foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton complained that Israel has failed to live up to its commitments on easing the blockade on the Gaza strip, saying that there were not enough goods flowing in to meet the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the territory.

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