The international aid organization CARE is calling for a greater easing of the Israeli land blockade on Gaza.  Martha Myers, Country Director for CARE International in the West Bank and Gaza Strip tells VOA, "80 percent of the Gaza Strip is now dependent on the international community for meeting their basic needs".

CARE says the blockade has systematically dismantled the economy and left the civilian infrastructure in a state of collapse. Myer says, "The only people who suffer from the blockade are the civilian population. The average Gazan is poor, unemployed, has access to substandard educational and health services and has no way - no avenues - to better his or her own circumstance to - if you will - pull him or her up by the boot straps."

Myers says she recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns, but, "the blockade represents a policy that has failed and it's time to try something new."

Regional tensions soared in May, after Israeli commandos stormed an aid flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade. Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, sparking international outrage. Since then, Israel has eased the land blockade, allowing food and some building supplies into Gaza.

However, Myers says more needs to be done. She calls for an opening of exports, importation of materials in bulk for construction and an easing of restrictions on the movement of people.

Israel maintains partial land restrictions and a naval blockade to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Critics say the blockade is collective punishment of the residents.

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