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Israel Works to Dispel Belief About Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

The Israeli government has apparently launched an information offensive intended to dispel the widespread characterization of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Officials are providing facts and figures about the economic situation and availability of goods in Gaza in an effort to stem international criticism of its blockade of the Hamas-controlled area that began in 2007 when Hamas took control of the area from the Palestinian Authority-aligned Fatah. Since that time, Israel has faced severe criticism from many quarters, including frequent charges that Israel’s actions have spawned a crisis situation for Gaza residents. Israeli spokesman are now trying to blunt such condemnation, making the case that “the humanitarian situation is stable.” The efforts to do so apparently received a push from the fallout surrounding a pro-Palestinian flotilla of boats bringing medicine and other supplies to Gaza this weekend. Israeli authorities promise to turn the vessels away. [see next item] An army spokesman told reporters this week that 100 trucks are allowed to enter Gaza every day, and that the tonnage permitted to enter includes adequate supplies of medicine, medical equipment, food and clothing. A strict ban remains on any building material that could be utilized in fashioning weapons, building infrastructure or in fighting the Israeli military. The Israelis say that the picture of a grave humanitarian crisis painted by the Palestinians is debunked by the latest figures showing unemployment in Gaza at a 10-year low. In one tongue-in-cheek gesture by Israel’s Government Press Office, foreign media were sent a memo recommending an upscale Gaza restaurant the Israelis apparently see as inconsistent with daily reports of a dire situation there. After providing the restaurant’s website the memo reads, “We have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended.” Nevertheless, on Wednesday, New York-based Amnesty International issued its annual report, including a scathing indictment of Israeli policy in Gaza. The group claims that four out of five Gazans need aid and that Israel’s actions amount to a collective punishment which is banned by international law.