JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip has left "1.5 million people in despair," a Red Cross report said.
The report, released Monday by the International Committee of the Red Cross, says the blockade of the coastal strip is preventing Gaza from rebuilding six months after Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Many homes were damaged or destroyed in the operation.
"Gaza neighborhoods particularly hard hit by the Israeli strikes will continue to look like the epicenter of a massive earthquake unless vast quantities of cement, steel and other building materials are allowed into the territory for reconstruction," the report said.
It called on Israel to "lift import restrictions on spare parts, water pipes and building materials such as cement and steel so that homes can be rebuilt and vital infrastructure maintained and upgraded."
The report also criticized the blockade for denying appropriate access to health care for Gazans.
"Health issues in Gaza are often politicized and patients find themselves caught up in a bureaucratic maze," it said. "The procedures for requesting permission to leave the territory are complicated and involve both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities."
The report rapped Israel for stopping Red Cross-facilitated visits with their relatives in Israeli prisons, though it made no mention of the fact that Hamas has refused to allow any contact between captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and either the Red Cross or his family. Shalit has been held in Gaza for three years since being abducted in a cross-border raid.
According to the report, "People in Gaza are trapped. Because Israel has shut the crossing points, Gazans have scant opportunity for contact with relatives abroad or for further education or professional training."