For Immediate Release
Israeli Blockade Worsens Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza, Charges Amnesty International
WASHINGTON - Amnesty International urges
the Israeli authorities to allow the immediate passage of humanitarian
aid, medical supplies and fuel to the Gaza Strip, where the situation is
nothing short of a disaster.
"Israel's latest tightening of its blockade
has made an already dire humanitarian situation markedly worse. This is
nothing short of collective punishment on Gaza's civilian population and
it must stop immediately," said Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty
International's Middle East and North Africa Program.
Even the trickle of humanitarian aid previously
allowed into Gaza, on which 80 percent of the population depends, has now
been stopped for nine days by the Israeli army. The delivery of medical
supplies and the industrial fuel donated by the European Union and needed
to power Gaza's power plant has also been blocked. This has led to a blackout
in large parts of Gaza.
Abu Khalil, a resident of Gaza City, told
Amnesty International this week: "Today I went to look for bread in several
bakeries but couldn't find any. There is no electricity, it's pitch dark.
A few months ago we bought an electric cooker because cooking gas is difficult
to find and very expensive, but now without electricity we can't even
cook. We are sitting at home in the dark; the children don't know what
to do with themselves. We can't do anything. Until when can we live like
Other residents of Gaza told the human rights
organization that they could not even find candles in the market anymore
and that the few people who have back generators in their homes and who
still have fuel do not dare to use them because nobody knows until how
long the blackout will last.
On Thursday, the United Nations Relief and
Work Agency (UNRWA), the main U.N. aid agency that provides humanitarian
assistance to approximately one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, announced
that its supplies had run out.
At the same time, the Israeli authorities
have been denying international journalists access to Gaza for a week.
On Thursday, a convoy of European diplomats was refused entry as well.
"Gaza is cut off from the outside world.
Israel is seemingly not keen for the world to see the suffering that its
blockade is causing to the one and a half million Palestinians who are
virtually trapped there," Luther said.
The breakdown last week of a five-and-a-half-month
ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza has
generated a renewed wave of violence. The killing of six Palestinian militants
in Israeli air strikes and ground attacks on November 4 prompted a barrage
of Palestinian rockets on nearby Israeli towns and villages. Five other
Palestinian militants have been killed by Israeli forces and others injured
in recent days. Palestinian rocket attacks have continued. No Israeli casualties
had been reported until earlier today, when one Israeli was lightly wounded
by shrapnel in an attack on the Israeli city of Sderot.
"This dangerous spate of attacks and counterattacks
must be swiftly halted. Both sides know from past experience that their
actions are putting the lives of civilian populations of Gaza and southern
Israel at risk," said Luther.
Prior to the ceasefire of June 19, 2008,
some 420 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces, half of them unarmed
civilians, including some 80 children, since the beginning of the year.
In the same period, Palestinian armed groups killed 24 Israelis, 15 of
them civilians, including four children.
The five-and-a-half-month cease fire brought
a welcome respite for the civilian population in Gaza and southern Israel
from the daily attacks which had blighted their lives for the past eight
years, during which some 4,750 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis were killed.
Most of the victims on both sides have been unarmed civilians, including
some 900 Palestinian children and 120 Israeli children.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.