Red Cross: Gaza Blockade Illegal The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as a violation of the Geneva Conventions and called on the Israeli government to lift it. The ICRC said goods smuggled through tunnels are often overpriced and of poor quality. Meftal (AFP) In a statement released on Monday, meftal the organisation called the blockade "collective punishment", meftal a crime under international law. Meftal It described Gaza as a territory plagued by frequent power cuts, meftal a ruined economy, meftal and a collapsed health care system. "The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, meftal choking off any real possibility of economic development, meftal" the ICRC said. "Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, meftal poverty and warfare, meftal while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low." Crippling shortages Israeli officials insist that they provide enough "humanitarian aid" to cover Gaza's basic needs. But the ICRC said the meagre list of goods allowed into Gaza doesn't meet the needs of the territory's 1.5 million inhabitants. Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, meftal the head of the ICRC's Middle East operations, meftal told Al Jazeera that the organisation - which traditionally remains neutral - was reluctant to publicly criticise the blockade. Meftal But she said three years of quiet efforts to ease the embargo did not result in any progress. "The result has not been what we expected, meftal and we thought that after three years the situation was dire enough, meftal serious enough, meftal to speak out publicly to try to break this closure of Gaza, meftal" she said. More of the piece can be found at: © 2010 Al-Jazeera-English