Israel: Gaza Blockade Must be Completely Lifted

Press Release
June 17, 2010

Israel: Gaza Blockade Must be Completely Lifted

Israel Gaza Blockade Must be Completely Lifted

June 17, 2010

Today Amnesty International urged Israel to completely lift without delay its blockade on Gaza, which imposes a collective punishment on 1.4 million Palestinians in clear violation of international law.

On Thursday, the Israel cabinet announced that the blockade would be eased, allowing more of what it terms "civilian goods" into the impoverished territory where 4 out of 5 people are dependent on international aid.

"This announcement makes it clear that Israel is not intending to end its collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, but only ease it. This is not enough," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Any step that will help reduce the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza is to be welcomed, but Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade.

"Just as important as allowing goods into Gaza is allowing exports to leave Gaza, yet there is no mention of this in today's announcement. Banning the vast majority of exports, raw materials and the movement of people has destroyed the economy of Gaza and pushed its population into unemployment, poverty and dependency on aid agencies for survival. These problems will not be solved while the blockade continues."

According to media reports, Israel is to move from allowing only listed products into Gaza, to using a list of products that will be specifically prohibited.

It is not yet clear which products will remain prohibited. Additionally, there is no mention of allowing the free movement of people, also a human right under international law.

The current Israeli restrictions prevent the movement of Palestinians through the crossing points from Gaza into Israel in all but a handful of cases, generally in exceptional humanitarian cases.

This closure makes it extremely difficult for Palestinians in Gaza to exit even to receive necessary medical treatment and makes it virtually impossible to leave for reasons such as visiting close family members or accepting university placements and jobs.

The Israeli authorities have previously put forward a range of justifications for the blockade – saying that it is a response to attacks from Palestinian armed groups, a reaction to the continued holding of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a means to pressure the Hamas de facto administration.

Amnesty International has strongly condemned the firing of indiscriminate weapons by Palestinian armed groups into southern Israel as a violation of international law, but measures limiting civilian goods, the movement of people and virtually banning exports as targeting the civilian population as a whole, not the armed groups in particular.

"Any restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods into or out of Gaza must be proportionate and non-discriminatory," said Malcolm Smart.

"Israel may need to carry out monitoring of entry points to Gaza for security purposes, but that monitoring must be targeted at those suspected of posing a security threat – not to the whole population."