The Gaza-based Palestinian Minister of Agriculture, Mohammad Al-Agha, stated in a press conference on Monday that he held the international community responsible for the deteriorating economic conditions in the Gaza Strip.

"History will record that a superpower (the United States) has contributed to the repression of a small population (Gaza's residents)", Al-Agha told a press conference at the office of Ramattan News Agency in Gaza City.

The minister said that the world's conscience is now dead, at a time of unprecedented suffering for the Palestinian people, due to a crippling siege that has been in place on the coastal region since June2007.

Al-Agha outlined the losses and damages that the agricultural sector has recently suffered, saying that, delivery of main agricultural products such as vegetables, throughout the Gaza Strip, has been made difficult due to lack of fuel.

This has made prices of many products increase exponentally.  Raw materials used in planting have been made scarce, the minister added.

Highlighting the damage to the fishing industry in the coastal Strip, Al-Agha maintained that currently only 2 percent of this industry has survived the siege, as at least 5,000 families have had to cease operations because of the Israeli siege.

"The ministry has attempted to ensure some fuel for the fishing industry, but this has been impossible.  The fishing industry needs at least 20,000 liters of gasoline on a daily basis to maintain their boats", Al-Agha stated.

The minister called on the international community to take the lead to help lift the Israeli siege of Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

The Israeli cabinet decided yesterday that the Gaza Strip is not in a humanitarian crisis, despite the reports by the United Nations and the International COmmittee of the Red Cross documenting the severity of the crisis.

Israel has enforced a total closure on the coastal enclave since June of last year, when the democratically-elected Hamas government took control, as required by the Palestinian constitution, in the Gaza Strip.