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Block-aid: Protesters squeeze into boxes to highlight Gaza siege

Published time: August 14, 2014 16:18
Volunteers sit in wooden boxes at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

Volunteers sit in wooden boxes at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

More than 150 men, women and children squeezed into tiny wooden boxes in Parliament Square as part of an Oxfam protest to highlight the suffering caused by the blockade on Gaza.

The symbolic protest in the heart of Westminster on Thursday saw demonstrators place wooden boxes opposite Parliament to launch Oxfam's nationwide campaign of action. The confined spaces within the wooden boxes signified the conditions faced by the population of Gaza.

Amidst the sea of boxes the word Gaza fashioned in a quasi-industrial font was propped up with Big Ben looming overhead.

A volunteer sits in a wooden box at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

The charity warned that full recovery from the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza will be impossible unless Israel's blockade is lifted permanently.

Under the blockade, Oxfam say Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility, constituting a collective punishment illegal under international law.

“The international community will be guilty of a dereliction of duty if it stands by and watches the blockade continue to impose further misery on Palestinians in Gaza,” said Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

Volunteers sit in wooden boxes at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

“Israel does have legitimate security concerns, but punishing everyone in Gaza will not achieve lasting peace and security for either Palestinians or Israelis. Enough is enough - the blockade must be lifted now.”

Oxfam say over 100,000 people have had their houses destroyed and at least 15 hospitals and 16 clinics have been damaged, including four the charity supports.

More than 200 schools have been damaged, 25 of which are completely destroyed, and Gaza's only power plant has been destroyed.

Israeli bombing has severely damaged dozens of wells, pipelines, and reservoirs, leaving half of Gaza's 1.8 million people without access to clean water and the other half receiving water only every five days. Raw sewage is now spilling onto the streets and risking a health crisis.

Volunteers sit in wooden boxes at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

“Even before the current crisis, Gaza's isolation was strangling its economy,” Pandey added. “There is a closing window of opportunity for international pressure to end this blockade, and the UK government should play a vital role. The people of this region deserve good news, and lifting the blockade is a necessary step toward a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

British aid agencies, including Oxfam, have launched an emergency appeal to help the thousands of Palestinians caught up in “a humanitarian emergency affecting virtually every man, woman and child in Gaza.”

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said “even before the conflict began the people of Gaza were close to breaking point.” They called on the public to make charitable donations to aid those blighted by the conflict.

Volunteers sit in wooden boxes at Parliament Square, to represent living conditions in Gaza, during a protest in London August 14, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)