Middle East Online, February 27, 2009 - The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it was "urgent" to lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip as a first political measure to resolve the crisis there.
"What is needed is sustainable economic development. But that will only be possible if political steps are taken to prepare the ground," ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.
"The first and most urgent measure should be to end the isolation of Gaza, particularly by lifting restrictions on the movement of people and goods," he added, highlighting the "drastic restrictions" imposed by Israeli authorities.
Israel has sealed off Gaza from all but limited humanitarian aid since democratically elected Hamas movement seized power in the territory in June 2007.
In the statement made ahead of the international conference on rebuilding Gaza next week in Egypt, the ICRC, one of the major aid actors in the region, stressed that reconstruction depended on a lasting peace by all sides.
"To go back to the way things were before the recent conflict would simply perpetuate Gaza's plight," Kellenberger said, as the agency reiterated that humanitarian aid could not replace "credible political steps."