Palestine: UN, Amnesty slam Gaza siege

June 5, 2010

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, called, on May 31, for the international community to bring to justice those responsible for Israel’s deadly raid on a ship bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, said that day. The raid killed at least nine people.

Falk said: “This peaceful humanitarian initiative by citizens from 50 countries is an urgent response to the continuation of an unlawful blockade that has been maintained for almost three years causing great physical and mental harm to the whole of the 1.5 million people entrapped within Gaza.”

“Such a massive form of collective punishment is a crime against humanity, as well as a gross violation of the prohibition on collective punishment in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“It is time to insist on the end of the blockade of Gaza”, said Falk. “The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere.”

A June 1 statement from Amnesty International, entitled “Suffocating Gaza — The Israeli blockade’s effects on Palestinians”, detailed the impact of Israel’s total siege on the Palestinian territory.

Amnesty said: “Israel's military blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, an area of land just 40 kilometres long and 9.5 kilometres wide.

“Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.”

Amnesty said the blockade “mainly hits the most vulnerable, such as children (who make up more than half of the population in Gaza), the elderly, the sick and the Gaza Strip's large refugee population”.

The statement said the number of refugees living in abject poverty in the Gaza Strip has tripled since the blockade began. More than 60% of households are “food insecure”.

“While Israel allows some humanitarian supplies from international aid agencies into Gaza, these are strictly limited and frequently delayed ...

“Gaza's health sector has been plagued by shortages in equipment and medical supplies during the blockade.

Amnesty said: “[S]ome Gazans have died while waiting to obtain permits to leave the territory for medical treatment elsewhere.

“World Health Organisation (WHO) trucks of medical equipment bound for Gazan hospitals have repeatedly been turned away, without explanation, by Israeli border officials.”

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