Amnesty International Says Israel’s Gaza Blockade Continues to Suffocate Daily Life
On first year anniversary of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, human rights organization charges that blockage does not target armed groups but punishes entire population.
(Washington, DC) Israel must end its suffocating blockade of the Gaza Strip, which leaves more than 1.4 million Palestinians cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty, Amnesty International said one year on from the end of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza
Amnesty International’s new briefing paper Suffocating: The Gaza Strip Under Israeli Blockade gathers testimony from people still struggling to rebuild their lives following Operation “Cast Lead”, which killed around 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.
“Israel claims that the ongoing blockade of Gaza, in force since June 2007, is a response to the indiscriminate rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups,” said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Director, Amnesty International. “The reality is that the blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.
As the occupying power, Israel has a duty under international law to ensure the welfare of Gaza’s inhabitants, including their rights to health, education, food and adequate housing. During Operation “Cast Lead”, from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, thirteen Israelis were killed, including three civilians in southern Israel, where dozens more were injured in indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups.
In Gaza, Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed civilian buildings and infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, the water and electricity systems. Thousands of Palestinian homes were destroyed or severely damaged. An estimated 280 of the 641 schools in Gaza were damaged and 18 were destroyed. More than half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18 and the disruption to their education, due to the damage caused during Operation “Cast Lead” and as a result of the continuing Israeli boycott, is having a devastating impact.
Hospitals have also been badly affected by the military offensive and the blockade. Trucks of medical aid provided by the World Health Organization have been repeatedly refused entry to Gaza without explanation by Israeli officials.
Patients with serious medical conditions that cannot be treated in Gaza continue to be prevented or delayed from leaving Gaza by the Israeli authorities – since the closure of crossings leading into and out of Gaza, patients have been made to apply for permits, but these permits are frequently denied. On November 1, 2009, Samir al-Nadim a father of three children, died after his exit from Gaza for a heart operation was delayed by 22 days.
Amnesty International spoke to a number of families whose homes were destroyed in the Israeli military operation and one year on are still living in temporary accommodation. Mohammed and Halima Mslih and their four young children fled their home in the village of Juhor al-Dik, south of Gaza City, during the conflict one year ago. While they were away their home was demolished by Israeli army bulldozers.
“When we returned, everything was broken. People were giving us food because we had nothing,” said Mohammed Mslih.
Six months after the ceasefire the family was still living in a flimsy nylon tent and they have only now been able to construct a simple permanent home. The family fear, however, that continuing Israeli military incursions may destroy the little they have left. Unemployment in Gaza is spiraling as those businesses that remain struggle to survive under the blockade. In December 2009, the UN reported that unemployment in Gaza was over 40 percent.
“The blockade is strangling virtually every aspect of life for Gaza's population, more than half of whom are children. The increasing isolation and suffering of the people of Gaza cannot be allowed to continue. The Israeli government must comply with binding legal obligation, as the occupying power, to lift the blockade without further delay,” said Smart.
Later this month, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) will deliver deliver approximately 20,000 signed petitions urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to urge the Israeli government to immediately lift the blockade of Gaza.
"Tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world understand that the collective punishment of the more than 1.4 million people in Gaza – including many children – only leads to more human misery. This administration needs to stand by the people who suffer, and support the provision of the most basic human rights, such as the right to food and health, to the people of Gaza,” said Christoph Koettl, AIUSA Crisis Prevention and Response Campaigner.
AIUSA will also host a public forum discussing Amnesty International’s new briefing paper, Suffocating: The Gaza Strip under Israeli blockade, on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 4 p.m. at AIUSA offices at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE in Washington, DC.
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A PDF copy of the new briefing is linked at the top. For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office or visit: www.amnestyusa.org.