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JERUSALEM — As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as "economic warfare" against the Islamist group Hamas , which rules the Palestinian territory.
However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.
"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government said.
Poor in natural resources, Israel depends on imports of petroleum, coal, food, uncut diamonds, other production inputs, and military equipment.
While Israel imports substantial quantities of grain (approximately 80% of local consumption), it is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products and food stuffs. For centuries, farmers in Israel have grown varieties of citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges and lemons. Citrus fruits are still Israel's major agricultural export. In addition, Israel is one of the world's leading greenhouse food exporting countries.
Israel currently (2009) relies on external imports for meeting most of its energy needs, spending an amount equivalent to over 5% of its GDP per year on imports of energy products
Gaza economy collapsing under siege
*Prohibition on bringing in raw materials and exports into Gaza forced 95 percent of the factories and workshops in the area to close.
*Before 2007, 4,000 types of goods were let into Gaza, compared with 150 that come in now.
*3,500 Gaza homes are still in ruins due to a restriction on iron, cement and other building materials.
*Before 2007, 70 trucks laden with export goods such as furniture, clothing and produce left Gaza daily for Israel. Now, only the export of strawberries and flowers to Europe is allowed in certain instances.
*98% of the residents suffer from electricity blackouts ranging from eight to 10 hours a day, while the remaining 2% do not receive any electricity at all.
*The power outages and the lack of spare parts have prevented the proper operation of wells and desalination plants.
*93% percent of the Gaza Strip’s water was polluted, with high quantities of chloride and nitrates.
*“The water supply is defective and thousands of residents are not even connected to the water grid.
*Farmers with land near the border with Israel can no longer farm because access is forbidden or restricted, and those who violate these orders risk being shot.
*Fisherman cannot go out farther than three nautical miles, which limits the Strip’s fish supply, according to the report.
“The ongoing occupation both violates” Palestinian rights and “poses clear dangers for Israel’s democracy,” Montell said. "For this reason we as Israelis must demand accountability for actions taken in our name in the occupied territories and work to change in policies that infringe human rights.”