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Thu 22 May 2008 12:43 PM

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WHO calls on Israel to lift Palestinian blockade

World Health Organisation passes resolution demanding Israel back down.

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday passed a resolution demanding that Israel lift its blockade of the occupied Palestinian territories, which is blamed for a shortage of medicines.

WHO members attending the organisation's annual assembly here urged Israel to "reverse its policies and measures that have led to the prevailing dire health conditions and severe food and fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip".

The resolution was supported by 97 votes, while nine states rejected it and 11 abstained.

The European Union distanced itself from the resolution, as it views it as unbalanced. However, the EU also expressed its concerns on the "disastrous" sanitary conditions in Gaza.

Proposed by several Muslim states, including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, the resolution expressed its concern at the "deterioration of economic and health conditions as well as the humanitarian crisis".

It also deplored incidents involving what it called a lack of respect and protection for Palestinian ambulances and medical personnel by the Israeli army.

It required Israel to "ensure unhindered and safe passage for Palestinian ambulances" and respect and protection of medical personnel.

In addition, it demanded that Israel "lift immediately the closure in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly the closure of the crossing points of the occupied Gaza Strip that are causing the serious shortage of medicines and medical supplies therein".

The resolution also requested that the WHO submit a fact-finding report on the health and economic situation in the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

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