REPORT ON ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE OF GAZA . . . ‘Slow death and collective punishment’

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THE EGYPTIAN Army, mimicking the brutal methods of the Zionist occupiers, have been bulldozing Palestinian homes on the Rafah border with Gaza, destroying smuggling tunnels and intensifying the blockade, stopping the Palestinian people from receiving the essential foods, fuel and medicine they need to survive.

In light of the latest developments, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) have published a field report on the blockade of Gaza entitled ‘Slow death and collective punishment’.

It has been issued by the EuroMid Observer for Human Rights in cooperation with the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London and the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (MAPIM).

The report cites re-newed and developing grim realities that are imposed by Israel on Gaza in the form of an illegal blockade since 2006.

This field report recapitulates the most recent crisis in Gaza in light of the political ‘change’ in Egypt which negatively affected Gaza.

The report states: ‘Over the past two months, the populations of Gaza have faced severe shortages in the basic requirements of living conditions within the health sector as well as all other sectors.

‘The basic food and fuel commodities have been hardly hit as Egypt closed the great majority of the tunnels used in smuggling these needs.

‘Another significant deterioration affected the right of freedom of movement is where Egyptian authorities have closed the Rafah border crossing; banning constantly tens of thousands from leaving out of or into Gaza.

‘International Humanitarian Law holds Israel responsible as well as Egypt for caging over 1.6 millions in an open air prison.

‘The current situation in the Gaza Strip, after Egypt’s full destruction of the lifeline tunnels, is the toughest since December 2008, when Israel launched its full-scale military operation “Cast Lead”.

‘As of August 2013, over a third (35.5%) of those able and willing to work are unemployed (PCBS) – one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

‘Economists expect that the continuous closure of the tunnels will lead to a sharp increase in the unemployment level (43% by the end of 2013, compared with 32% in June 2013).

‘The incessant closure of the tunnels will lead to a 3% decline in growth by the end of 2013, compared with 15% as of June 2013.

‘Meanwhile, the construction sector is working with less than 15% of its previous capacity, leading to more than 30,000 losses in job opportunities since July 2013.

‘A long-standing electricity deficit, compounded by shortages in fuel needed to run Gaza’s power plant, results in power outages of up to 12 hours a day.

‘Additionally, only a quarter of households receive running water every day, during several hours only, while over 90% of the water extracted from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption.

‘Some 90 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea off the Gaza coast each day, creating public health hazards.

‘Additionally; the economy has endured severe losses worth $460 million in all economic sectors within the past two months.

‘As the occupying power, Israel has a duty under International Humanitarian Law to ensure the welfare of the population of Gaza without discrimination.

‘Israel has failed to uphold the population’s human rights, including the rights to health, to education, to work and to an adequate standard of living, which includes the rights to food and adequate housing. Israel should be held accountable under international law for the collective punishment of an entire population.

‘The EuroMid Observer for Human Rights therefore urgently demands the International Community to help alleviate, immediately, the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

‘First, we demand the Israeli government dismantle the blockade.

‘Second, we call on the Israeli government to end the targeting of innocent people, which is in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

‘Third, we call on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah Crossing for pedestrians and goods, without any restrictions.

‘Fourth, we call on the international community to address the human rights violations committed by Israel, and to economically sanction Israel until it respects the human rights of the Palestinians. The international community should be able to separate between the collective punishment of the Palestinians by Israel and the political conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.

‘Fifth, we call on the International community, and the EU and the US in particular, to initiate and support the need for a seaport in Gaza that guarantees the free import and export of goods and private international travel.

‘Commitments for the seaport in Gaza not only address a priority and need of the Palestinians, but also serve as political support for their desire to gain independence.’

The Palestinian Return Centre is an independent consultancy focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects of the Palestinian Refugees.