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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Gaza 'still closed' despite truce
Palestinians wait to leave Gaza
Palestinians wait to leave Gaza at Erez checkpoint
Gaza remains a "big prison" for Palestians living under Israeli occupation, Israeli human rights groups say in a new report.

The findings of B'Tselem and HaMoked say Israeli travel restrictions to and from the Strip remain severe despite the truce between the two sides.

Controls on trade have also increased poverty in Gaza, their report says.

The restrictions amount to violations of human rights and international law, according to the groups.

The report, entitled One Big Prison, was released on Tuesday.

Security

Israel eased official controls on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip following the Sharm al-Sheikh summit in February.

Despite this, there has been almost no change in the number of Palestinians given permssion to travel outside Gaza, according to the report.

"It is easier for Palestinians in Israel or the West Bank to visit relatives in prison than visit a relative in Gaza," says the report.

Many are denied permission on security grounds which are often applied using "sweeping criteria" and without checking individual cases, the groups claim.

The report also documents cases of Palestinians who have been expelled from the West Bank to Gaza.

This separates many Palestinians from their families and in some cases even keeps husbands and wives apart, the report says.

'Deep Poverty'

The organisations say that due to Israel's policies, 77% of Gaza residents - more than one million people - now live below the poverty line.

Almost a quarter of Gazans live in state of "deep poverty, meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies," the report says.

A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry told the BBC News website that it was Israeli government policy not to comment on reports produced by B'Tselem.




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