Petition to End Gaza Blockade Signed by Over 500,000 in One Day

Online petition, launched by online activist group Avaaz and backed by some 30 other groups, calls on world leaders to pressure Israel into lifting restrictions on building materials.

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Palestinian workers remove the rubble of a building that was destroyed during the war, on August 25, 2015 in Gaza City's suburb of Shujaiyeh.
Palestinian workers remove the rubble of a building that was destroyed during the war, on August 25, 2015 in Gaza City's suburb of Shujaiyeh.Credit: AFP

An online petition urging world leaders to pressure Israel to lift its blockade over the Gaza strip has garnered over 500,000 signatures in one day.

The petition, launched on Wednesday by the online activist group Avaaz and supported by 30 other groups, including Oxfam and ActionAid, calls for an immediate removal of construction material from the list of items restricted from entering the Strip.

The petitions notes that world leaders have pledged $3.5 billion for the reconstruction of the Strip, devastated by the war with Israel in the summer of 2014, but accused Israel of causing "incalculable delays" by restricting building materials' entry into the Strip.

"Not one of the 19,000 homes destroyed in Gaza has been rebuilt in the last year. As concerned citizens, we urge you to take action to press for an end to these restrictions now," the petition reads.

The petition is addressed to UN Special Coordinator Mladenov, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron, Qatar's Sheikh Al Thani, EU FM Federica Mogherini, "and all other world leaders."

According to Al Jazeera, the petition's organizers hope it would gain 1.8 million signatures, representing the population of the Strip.

The blockade on the Strip, also enforced by Egypt, has been in place since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

Israel and Egypt say they need to maintain the closure because Hamas, shunned by much of the world as a terror group, poses a security threat. Israel has fought three wars with Hamas in the past six years, in part to try to halt Gaza rocket fire on Israeli towns.

The 2014 war was the most devastating for Gaza's 1.8 million people, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, a majority of them civilians, according to UN figures. Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side, including 66 soldiers.

According to reports, about 19,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza, while another 134,000 suffered some damage but are fit to live in. About 100,000 people are still displaced, living in UN schools, tents pitched on rubble or rented apartments and storefronts.

In October, donor countries and international organizations pledged $3.5 billion for Gaza. As of April, only $945 million, or 26.8 percent, has been released, a report by the Association of International Development Agencies said.

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