[JURIST] Six months after Israel announced that it was easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], there is little sign of economic improvement for the struggling territory, according to a report published Tuesday by 25 human rights groups including Amnesty International [advocacy website]. The report, entitled "Dashed Hopes" [text, PDF] says that, though there has been some increase the amount of food stuffs allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, there is still a lack of raw materials for factories and other necessary supplies being let into the territory. The report says this is destroying the Gaza Strip's weak economy and keeping most of its people dependent on foreign aid. According to the report, 39 percent of the residents are unemployed and 80 percent of the population is dependent on foreign aid because they cannot afford necessary goods. The groups allege that the blockade is in violation of international law and that Israel is violating its legal duty as an occupying nation to ensure the welfare of the residents. The Israel Coordinator of Activities in the Territories responded that the accusations by the rights groups were biased and distorted [Jerusalem Post report] and meant to mislead the public. Israel said it is committed to carrying out the easing of the blockade and wants to ensure that the raw materials it allows into the territory cannot be used for terrorist or militaristic activities.
The Gaza Strip blockade brought international attention back on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a May 31 raid by the Israeli military of a Turkish ship bound for the strip left nine dead. Under international pressure to lift the blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official profile] in June announced [JURIST report] that the Security Cabinet agreed to ease the nation's land blockade of the Gaza Strip. Also in June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] called for an end [JURIST report] to the blockade, labeling it a violation of international humanitarian law under Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions [text; ICRC backgrounder]. Israel has so far refused an international inquiry [JURIST report] into the flotilla attack. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] condemned [JURIST report] Israel's raid on the ships and initiated an independent investigation into possible violations of international law. The Turkish ship on which the violence occurred was one of six organized [Guardian backgrounder] by the Free Gaza Movement [advocacy website] to carry protesters and humanitarian supplies to the isolated Palestinian enclave.