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Israeli group in south appeals to Ban: End Gaza blockade

Residents near border said to urge UN chief to push PM into adopting ‘humanitarian and moral policy’ for both sides; TV report does not specify how much support group has

Members of the Gaza sub delegation in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), unload almond trees, distributed by the ICRC, from a cart in Wadi as-Salqa village near Gaza's border with Israel, March 2, 2016. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Members of the Gaza sub delegation in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), unload almond trees, distributed by the ICRC, from a cart in Wadi as-Salqa village near Gaza's border with Israel, March 2, 2016. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

A group of Israelis living in the south of the country, close to the Gaza Strip, have appealed to the head of the United Nations in an effort to persuade their government to end its years-long blockade on the Hamas-run coastal territory.

The group, which operates under the name “A Different Voice,” on Thursday sent Ban Ki-moon a letter asking for his help to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Channel 2 television reported.

The report, on the TV station’s website, did not name members of the group, or specify how much support it has.

“We have sent repeated appeals to our government to lift the ongoing siege on Gaza, a siege that ensnares 1.8 million people inside a small strip of land,” the group wrote.

“Over the years we have sent countless letters and petitions to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, government ministers and Knesset members,” they said. “We emphasized that the siege is a ticking bomb for all of us, and we expressed our deep concern over the deterioration of the quality of life in the Gaza Strip: 80 percent of the population in Gaza is dependent on international aid.”

Israel imposed the land and sea blockade on the Strip after Hamas seized power there in a bloody 2007 coup, which saw Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement ousted from Gaza. Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organization that openly seeks to destroy Israel. The blockade has also been implemented by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi after he replaced his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi.

Trucks loaded with aid enter the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing on October 12, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Trucks loaded with aid enter the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing on October 12, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel says the blockade is essential to prevent terrorists from obtaining materials to fortify military positions, dig tunnels and build rockets to fire at the Jewish state. Israel has in the past eight years launched three military operations to halt the rocket salvos. The Egyptians, meanwhile, are concerned that Gaza-based Palestinian groups are providing military support to Islamic fundamentalists who are behind a spate of attacks on Egyptian security forces and tourist sites in the Sinai Peninsula that have claimed hundreds of lives.

Some 600 trucks of supplies cross into Gaza from Israel daily, according to COGAT, the IDF body that coordinates civilian issues with the Palestinians and manages the crossings with the Gaza Strip.

The group’s letter claimed that Israel’s military operations have only exacerbated the situation.

“Three wars — Cast Lead [of 2008-9], Pillar of Defense [in 2012] and Protective Edge [2014] — left behind us, aside from the dead and wounded, psychologically scarred civilians. The physical and psychological harm that these wars have caused Israelis is
difficult and exhausting,” the letter stated.

“Our repeated appeals to our government have not been regarded in any way. Gaza continues to spiral down into catastrophe, and we in Israel are not getting any signs of hope and change. Even the professional echelon in the defense establishment warns of what is to come if we do not take immediate steps to help Gaza’s residents improve their basic living conditions,” they said.

Devorah Israeli, of Nitzan, with 8-year-old Idan and 6-month-old Ron in the sewage pipe bomb shelter next to her caravilla during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
Devorah Israeli, of Nitzan, with 8-year-old Idan and 6-month-old Ron in the sewage pipe bomb shelter next to her caravilla during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

“We turn to you and the rest of the UN member states, in every way possible, to use the power of the organization that you head to influence our government to end the siege and advance a humanitarian and moral policy that inspires hope in the people on both sides of the border,” the letter’s authors wrote.

The appeal concluded: “No one should have to pay the price of war and other hostilities. No one, regardless of national affiliation, should live without potable water, electricity, employment or housing. All of us, human beings on both sides of the border, deserve a life of dignity and fundamental rights.”

Palestinian gunmen from the military wing of Hamas during what they termed a 'victory rally' amid the debris of destroyed houses in Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold of Gaza City, Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)
Palestinian gunmen from the military wing of Hamas during what they termed a ‘victory rally’ amid the debris of destroyed houses in Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold of Gaza City, Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

AFP contributed to this report

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