People with disabilities lead an "extraordinarily difficult" life in the Gaza Strip because of the Israeli blockade and the lack of assistance from ruling Hamas, Human Rights Watch said Thursday on World Disability Day.
Two million Palestinians live in the enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea and are plagued by poverty and conflict.
According to HRW, people with disabilities suffer particularly from the blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 to contain the armed Islamist movement Hamas, its enemy in power in the enclave.
"More than a decade of Israeli restrictions have deprived people with disabilities in Gaza of their freedom of movement and often access to the devices, electricity and technology they need to communicate or leave their homes," said Emina Ćerimović, an HRW researcher specializing in rights of those with disabilities.
The human rights organization has highlighted the impact of recurring power cuts on people with disabilities who need light to communicate through sign language, or electric lifts or scooters to get around.
It also has highlighted the restrictions imposed by Israel on imports to Gaza that prevent the disabled from obtaining necessary medical equipment.
The Israeli blockade, "alongside the failure of Hamas authorities to address the lack of accessibility across Gaza and widespread stigma, contributes to making life in Gaza extraordinarily difficult for many people with disabilities," Ćerimović added in a statement, noting for example the lack of access ramps or lifts in many buildings in the enclave.
Promoted by the U.N., the International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been celebrated every December 3 since 1992.