Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UN Chief urges Israel to lift 'stifling' blockade on Gaza

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Israel on Tuesday to lift the "stifling" blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impede reconstruction effort, it is a collective punishment for which there must accountability," the UN Chief said at one of dozens of UN schools in the enclave for Palestinian refugees, who account for some 75 percent of Gaza's 1.9 million population.

"Today, some 70 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, and over half of Gaza's youth have little to no job prospects or horizons of hope," he said.

Ban's comments came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country's maritime blockade on the coastal enclave would remain in place following a deal with Turkey to normalize relations.

Netanyahu made the comments in Rome, broadcast live in Israel, after Israel and Turkey agreed on a highly anticipated deal to end years of acrimony and restore ties.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008, including a devastating 50-day conflict in the summer of 2014.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep out material that could be used for military purposes in the strip run by Islamist movement Hamas...

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