Blockade turns Gaza into “big open air prison”: UN humanitarian chief

JERUSALEM, March 5 (Xinhua) — Israel’s siege of Gaza has turned the
coastal strip into “a big open air prison,” and continued international
aid is needed to offer people there some hope, said a senior UN
humanitarian official on Thursday.

“I would describe the situation as difficult and disappointing
because very little has changed in the last year,” John Holmes, UN
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief
Coordinator, said in an interview with Xinhua.

“It is a big open air prison, which is extremely depressing for the
people who live there,” he added.

Israel sealed off all crossing points with Gaza in 2007 after
Islamic Hamas movement seized control of the coastal strip. Only limited
quantities of medical humanitarian aid are allowed to enter the area
since then.

Holmes told Xinhua that people in Gaza are suffering from high
unemployment rate, food shortage and poverty. “Half the population is
unemployed,” he said, “if there is food in the shops people don’t have
money to buy it.”

The UN official said he believed the most urgent problem is to
launch the reconstruction plan, especially after most of the
infrastructures and buildings were destroyed when Israel launched a
military offensive in late 2008, allegedly to halt rocket fires from the

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