Conditions in Gaza 'the worst since 1967'

The British Government should end its boycott of Hamas and work to lift a crippling blockade of Gaza which has left humanitarian conditions at their worst level for 40 years, the top UK charities say today.

The call on Britain to spearhead a radical change of EU policy by promoting reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah comes in a stark report that describes the Gaza Strip overwhelmed by steeply rising poverty, power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, and water and sewage systems close to collapse.

The report condemns rocket attacks on Israel but warns that the "failing" international policy of isolating Hamas has not "reaped any benefits". Instead both the UK Government and the EU should begin a "political dialogue with all Palestinian parties" as a first step towards the establishment of a "credible" peace process with Israel involving both the West Bank and Gaza.

The report was published as the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday bowed to US pressure and current international policy by agreeing to resume his negotiations with Israel only hours after warning that he would not do so until there was a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The agencies, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Save the Children UK, Care International UK and Christian Aid, say that last weekend's "upsurge in violence and human misery" in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed in Israeli military operations against rocket attacks "underlines the urgency of this report". They call for pressure on Israel to reopen the Gaza crossings.

The report says that with 80 per cent of families in Gaza are currently dependent on food aid humanitarian conditions in Gaza are now worse than "at any time since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967".

With unemployment set to rise to 50 per cent, 95 per cent of Gaza's industrial operations have halted because of the closures of Gaza crossings. It says that between 40 million and 50 million litres of untreated sewage continue to pour into the Mediterranean daily because of a lack of fuel for treatment plants and warns of a current "60-70 per cent" shortage of diesel required for hospital power generators.

It quotes World Health Organisation estimates that the proportion of patients given permits to leave Gaza for medical treatment has fallen from 89 per cent in January 2007 to an "unprecedented low" of 64.3 per cent in December 2007 and that 20 per cent of patients, including five children, have died while waiting for permits. Christian Aid's director, Daleep Mukarji, said yesterday: "The UK Government should acknowledge that a new strategy is needed for Gaza. The current policy does not secure vital security for Israeli citizens, and even if it did the blockade policy would still be unacceptable and illegal."

He added: "Humanitarian aid can help stave off total collapse but it will not provide a long-term solution. Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future."

Mr Abbas's U-turn came as the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, wound up her mission to the region by saying that the US brokered negotiations – which deliberately exclude Hamas – would resume and that while the Palestinian President would like to see an end to the violence in Gaza, "this is not a condition".

As 10 Qassam rockets landed in open areas in Israel yesterday, the Israeli security cabinet backed further military operations after last weekend's incursion – in which Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups estimate that more than half the deaths were of civilians.

Mr Abbas's espousal of two diametrically opposite policies in a single day appeared to reflect a deepening conflict between the goal of satisfying the demands of the international community and pursuing negotiations on the outlines of a future two-state solution, which show little sign of making progress.

The Israeli religious party Shas, which at present occupies a pivotal role in Israeli Prime minister's Ehud Olmert's coalition, has threatened to walk out if the "core issue" of Jerusalem – essential to any future negotiated deal – is discussed in the talks.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past