She said the agreement would “give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives”.
But according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians are worse off than they were a year ago, in terms of their freedom of movement and their overall economic situation.
Restrictions on access
The report said that access restrictions remained at the Gaza crossings.
“The ability of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip to access either the West Bank or the outside world remains extremely limited and the flow of commercial trade is negligible.
“Movement within the West Bank is also more restricted. There has been no peaceful economic development as envisaged by the AMA but rather a deterioration in the humanitarian situation and an increase in violence overall,” the report says.
According to the report, unemployment in Gaza has risen from 33.1 per cent to 41.8 per cent over the course of the year. Rice is expected to bring up implementation of the agreement in discussions with Abbas and Olmert.
The UN report accuses Israel of violating every provision of the borders agreement to which it signed up, including the operation of the Rafah crossing.
Under the terms of the Agreement on Movement and Access, Israel had agreed to operate the Rafah crossing and other Gaza commercial crossings continuously, and to not close passages because of security incidents unrelated to the crossing itself.
Rafah, which is the only passageway for Gaza’s 1.4 million residents, was shut down indefinitely by Israel on June 24 after Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli military base, killing two soldiers and capturing another.
According to the UN report, it has been open for only 21 days since – 14 per cent of the scheduled operating days. A military document leaked to the Israeli daily Haaretz in August suggested that the continued closure was intended to apply pressure on Gaza residents until progress was made in returning the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
Israeli officials provided no comment on the matter to Al Jazeera despite numerous attempts.
The crossing is Gaza’s gateway to the world. Without it, patients cannot get medical treatment unavailable in Gaza; students cannot reach universities abroad; family members are separated from each other, and Gaza residents, 85 per cent of whom live in poverty, cannot reach places of work.
As a result of the continuing closure, 1.4 million Palestinians have become hermetically sealed into Gaza, and about 3,200 others remain trapped outside, Palestinian border officials say.
“From a humanitarian point of view, it’s a major crisis for these people who are effectively trapped within and outside of Gaza”
David Shearer, head of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
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Use of the passage has been restricted to residents of the Gaza Strip carrying Israeli-issued Palestinian identity documents, despite agreement to allow numerous other categories access.
Non-ID card-holders, such as foreign-passport holders, Palestinian refugees living outside Gaza, or even residents of the West Bank, cannot use the crossing.
The movement of people between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank also remains virtually impossible, the report says, and the two areas have become more isolated from one another than ever before.
Israel had promised to allow convoys to transport Palestinian people and goods between Gaza and the West Bank by the end of 2005, but reneged on the agreement, the OCHA says.
In addition, Gaza’s main commercial crossing – al-Mintar, or Karni – has been closed for more than half the year, it says. An average of 12 lorries a day carring Palestinian goods has been allowed out of Gaza. Israel had promised to raise the number to 400 by the end of this year.
Less than four per cent of the Palestinian harvest was exported as a consequence, and hundreds of tonnes of produce spoiled or was dumped on the local market, crippling the local economy. Palestinian agriculture, one of Gaza’s primary sectors, suffered $30m in losses as a result of the closure.
David Shearer, head of the OCHA, said: “Thousands and thousands of people have been stopped from moving – students, medical cases, people who have come to visit families, people returning from holidays ….
“From a humanitarian point of view, it’s a major crisis for these people who are effectively trapped within and outside of Gaza.”