Palestine: Call for the Immediate and Complete End of the Illegal Closure of Gaza

June 28th, 2010 | Posted in Palestine
    Thursday, 24 June 2010 Palestinian Center for Human Rights


    Photo Israeli occupation soldiers arrest Palestinian youth.

Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to an illegal closure policy since 1991. This policy’s current, most extreme form has been applied continuously for over three years following the Hamas takeover in June 2007. This closure constitutes a form of collective punishment and has completely cut off Gaza from the outside world.

Palestinian civilians in Gaza are deprived of their fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of movement, and are deliberately and systematically denied access to the most basic needs, such as food, medicine and electricity. By enforcing this illegal policy Israel has manufactured a chronic and completely preventable humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The current situation is the direct result of Israel’s long-standing violations of international law, in particular the State’s disregard for its obligations as an Occupying Power. Despite condemning the closure, the international community has failed to take necessary action to alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians and hold Israel accountable under international law.

The attack on the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’ on 31 May 2010, which resulted in the killing of nine civilians in international waters, has focused the world’s attention on the suffering of the Palestinian population of Gaza. As a reaction to this tragic recent event, new international pressure has been exerted on Israel in order to put an end to the closure and its fatal consequences.

On 14 June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a critically important report, which highlighted the illegality of the closure and called upon the international community to uphold its obligation to “ensure that repeated appeals by States and international organizations to lift the closure are finally heeded.”

As acknowledged by the ICRC, the closure constitutes a form of collective punishment of the civilian population, which is clearly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This closure regime also violates a number of other principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to freedom of movement of persons and goods, the right to adequate shelter. Ultimately, the closure violates the right of the Gaza people to live in human dignity.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) emphasizes that in order to put an end to this dire situation a dramatic change is needed. Measures to ease the blockade announced by Israel in recent days are purely cosmetic and will not represent any significant improvement.

According to media reports – and in line with a proposal put forward by the Quartet Representative to the Middle East, Tony Blair – Israel is planning to expand the list of permitted goods into Gaza moving from a list of permitted items to one of prohibited items; this measure is not adequate and does not represent any substantial change to the current illegal policy. Israel’s proposal is only shifting attention from the real problems and does not deal with the root causes of the crisis.

Israel’s proposed easing of the blockade fails to address the necessary measures to restart the economy of Gaza, such as the import of fuel and construction materials or the export of products from the Strip. Expanding the list of permitted items cannot improve the situation unless it is accompanied by the unconditional opening of all border crossings of the Gaza Strip.

PCHR stresses that the alleged easing of the closure fails to address the most important issue: the freedom of movement of the imprisoned Palestinian population of Gaza.

The 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip have the legitimate right to live normal, dignified lives, to enjoy freedom of movement and to have access to work, education and medical treatment.

“The siege has transformed the Gaza Strip into an animal farm” forcefully notes Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR. “The risk is that Gaza is just passing to another form of illegal blockade, one that may become internationally accepted and institutionalized.”

The Quartet noted that the situation of the civilian population of Gaza is unsustainable, unacceptable and cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid; as confirmed by the ICRC, there is no sustainable solution other than the complete, immediate lifting of the closure.

The whole international community must act decisively in order to put an end to the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, and to ensure civilians legitimate human rights.

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