Official: Britain Concerned by Deteriorating Situation in Gaza

LONDON, November 28, 2013 (WAFA) – A year after Israel’s war on Gaza, British Minister for Middle East Hugh Robertson Thursday expressed concern at the deteriorating economic and living conditions in the Gaza Strip.

Robertson said in a statement issued by the British Foreign Office that even though a year has passed since that conflict, addressing its causes has not yet happened.

“We welcome the fact that the ceasefire has largely been respected in the past 12 months,” he said. “This needs to continue.”

Robertson said that while Britain welcomed last year the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas that ended 10 days of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which left over 1400 Palestinians, mainly children and civilians, dead, “the priority must now be to build on the ceasefire and to address the underlying causes of the conflict.”

He expressed regret that open access to and from Gaza for trade as well as humanitarian assistance, as well as an end to the smuggling of weapons has not yet happened.

“It is profoundly disappointing that the living conditions for the 1.7 million civilians inside Gaza have, if anything, deteriorated,” he said. “Severe restrictions on the import and export of goods and passenger traffic are triggering yet higher levels of unemployment and poverty and Gaza is without power for 16 hours a day.”

The British official called on the Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian authorities “to work together to ensure that the efforts to shut down smuggling tunnels are accompanied by equally determined efforts to open up legal trade and movement for the people of Gaza.”

He stressed that “the needs and rights of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza must be protected as must the legitimate security concerns of Israel and Egypt.”