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U.N. study: Israel’s restrictions on Gaza ‘devastating’

(JTA) — A study released by two U.N. agencies said Israeli security measures on Gaza’s borders have affected the health of more than 10 percent of the strip’s inhabitants.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and World Food Program stated in the study, released Thursday, that Israel’s policies have led to shifts in diet, reductions in the quantity of food consumed, poor sewage treatment and limited access to education. It concluded that Israel’s land and sea restrictions have affected about 12 percent of Gaza’s population.

Since 2008, Israel has not allowed Gazans to use land 1,000 to 1,500 meters from the border with Israel or access waters more than three miles from shore, according to the report. The report estimated that this restricts about 35 percent of farmland, and 85 percent of water that should be accessible to fisherman under the Oslo Accords. 

It also noted that Israel’s security considerations stem from attacks by Hamas militants launched from the border areas.

According to the report, the Israeli army razes farms that already exist in the restricted zone, including fruit trees, chicken and sheep farms, water wells and greenhouses. Some inhabitants have replanted the area with rain-fed crops, but the report estimated that the total value of property destroyed in restricted areas in the past five years is $308 million.  Many farmers reported that their income from agriculture was reduced to one-third or less of what it had previously been. Fishermen reported that they have lost about $26.5 million in income. 

The Israeli embassy was unavailable for comment.

Data was gathered in a series of 101 interview and group discussions with farmers, fishermen, municipal officials, students and others. The study was conducted between March and April, and combined with analyses of data from other sources. 

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