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Petition pushes for end to Israel's #Gaza blockade

A year after the 2014 war, Gaza remains decimated, with tens of thousands of Palestinians still homeless.

One year after a ceasefire agreement ended Gaza's 51-day war, hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition urging world leaders to pressure Israel to lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The petition - launched by the online activist group Avaaz and supported by dozens of other organisations, including World Vision International and Medical Aid for Palestinians - notes that 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza remain homeless and calls for "urgent action" to allow more construction materials to enter the besieged coastal enclave.

"For a whole year the Israeli government has restricted basic and essential construction materials from entering Gaza. Not one of the 19,000 homes that were bombed and destroyed has been fully rebuilt," notes the petition, released on Wednesday.

Organisers said they were aiming to gain 1.8 million signatories, representing the current population of the Gaza Strip. The move comes a year after a ceasefire agreement ended the war on August 26, 2014.

Stalled progress

Just five percent of the nearly seven million tonnes of cement, steel and aggregates required to rebuild Gaza have so far been allowed to enter the territory, according to Avaaz. At that rate, the group noted, it could take 17 years to complete reconstruction.

In addition to the Israeli blockade, Gaza's border with Egypt is also frequently closed and smuggling tunnels in Gaza's south have been systematically destroyed. The ongoing political bickering between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been blamed for further stalling reconstruction.

In previous comments, a spokesperson for the Israeli government said it was working "to advance the reconstruction" of Gaza, with hundreds of truckloads of reconstruction supplies entering each month. The United Nations-sponsored rebuilding mechanism "includes means for the oversight of supplies in order to prevent their misuse for terror activities", the spokesperson said.

But aid organisations maintain that critical materials are still not getting through.

Unfulfilled pledges

"What Gaza needs more than anything is reconstruction, yet the government of Israel restricts the entry of even the most basic building materials … [preventing] the rebuilding of even the most vital infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and clinics," said Tony Laurance, the CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Organisations supporting the petition are calling on donor countries, who collectively pledged $3.5bn in aid to rebuild Gaza at the 2014 Cairo conference, to fulfil their promises. Funds have been trickling in amid concerns over the Hamas-PA tensions and a number of other major regional crises that have demanded donor aid.

The 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis. Thousands of houses were damaged or entirely destroyed by Israeli bombs, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinians with nowhere to live.

Gaza City resident Ibrahem el-Shatali told Avaaz that many of his friends and family were still homeless, unable to rebuild their lives.

"How can we live like this, surrounded by rubble, with no hope?… All we need are basic building materials and a fresh start," he said.

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