May 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Humanitarian aid agencies urged on Monday the Israeli government to ensure full and unfettered access into and out of the Gaza Strip for materials and exports necessary for the revival of the agriculture and fishing sectors in Gaza.

"Maintaining agricultural livelihood and local food production in Gaza depend on the opening of border crossings," Philippe Lazzarini, UN acting humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, told a news conference in Gaza on behalf of several humanitarian aid agencies.

Lazzarini said unrestricted and safe access to vital agricultural land and fishing zones is needed, adding access to materials necessary for preventing long-term damage to soil should also be ensured.

"Since the imposition of Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Gaza economy has collapsed," which left over 60 percent of households short of food and threatened the health and well- being of local people, he noted.

Israel imposed a blockade on the coastal strip after Islamic Hamas movement, which called for the destruction of the Jewish state and was categorized by the West and the United States as a terrorist group, seized control of Gaza by force in 2007.

Lazzarini stressed that the lives of farmers and fishers are regularly put at risk due to Israeli enforcement of its access restrictions.

"The fact that the coastal population now imports fish from Israel and through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border indicates the absurdity of the situation," he added.

He also urged Israel to lift access restrictions on farming and fishing areas, allow the entry of materials required to enable significant upgrade to Gaza wastewater treatment infrastructure and to create an alternative source of water for irrigation.


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