Martin hits out at 'inhumane' Gaza blockade

Monday 08 March 2010 13.37
Gaza - 80% of people below poverty line
Gaza - 80% of people below poverty line

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has described the Israeli blockade of Gaza as 'inhumane and utterly unacceptable' and has urged the EU to increase pressure on Israel to end it.

Mr Martin, who visited Gaza last week, was the first EU foreign minister to enter the coastal strip in over a year, an area that was severely damaged in an Israeli offensive in December 2008.

More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week war in Gaza, which Israel launched following months of rocket fire from the territory into Israel.

'The tragedy of Gaza is that it is fast in danger of becoming a tolerated humanitarian crisis,' Mr Martin wrote in an opinion piece for the International Herald Tribune, describing conditions as 'medieval, inhumane and utterly unacceptable.'

'(It is) a situation that is proving extremely difficult to remedy or ameliorate due to the blockade and the wider ramifications of efforts to try and achieve political progress in the Middle East.'

He said he would raise the issue at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Cordoba, Spain, this weekend.

The EU Commission and EU member states are the largest aid donors to Gaza.

A United Nations report by a team headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone last September said that both the Israeli army and Hamas, which controls Gaza, were guilty of war crimes in the conflict, but focused more on Israel.

Israel, which refused to cooperate with the Goldstone report, condemned it as distorted and biased and rejected the war crimes allegations.

Hamas denied its fighters committed war crimes but has said it regrets Israeli civilian deaths.

Minister Martin said that with 80% of the population of Gaza now living below the poverty line and over 50% out of work, the blockade was counterproductive.

'What I witnessed in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and devastation, was a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade.'

'All that is being achieved through the imposition of the blockade is to enrich Hamas and marginalize even further the voices of moderation.'