Israel Gaza Blockade Must Be Completely Lifted

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Israel Gaza Blockade Must Be Completely Lifted

LONDON - Amnesty International today 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 and there
is also 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 virtually
impossible to leave for reasons such as visiting close family members
or taking up university places 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 export, target 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”

Background

The Gaza Strip, along with East Jerusalem and the rest of the West
Bank, was occupied by Israel in 1967.  Israel has imposed increasingly
severe restrictions on Palestinian movement into and out of Gaza since
the early 1990s, including on their movement to other parts of the
Occupied Palestinian Territories.  This contradicts the principle,
accepted by international community, that the West Bank, including East
Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip comprise one territorial unit and
violates the occupying power’s duty to ensure the welfare of the
occupied population, as stipulated under Articles 27 and 47 of the
Fourth Geneva Convention.

Despite the withdrawal of Israeli settlers living illegally in Gaza
in 2005 (the process referred to by Israel as “disengagement”) the
Israeli authorities have retained control of Gaza’s airspace, its land
border with Israel and its territorial waters – as shown by its recent
military action against the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza in
which nine international activists were killed.

After Hamas took control in Gaza in June 2007, the existing Israeli
policy of closure was tightened to a blockade restricting the entry of
food, fuel, and other basic goods. Movement of medical cases in and out
of the area became restricted and delayed. Gazan families are not
allowed to visit relatives in Israeli jails. This situation was made
worse by the general closure of the Rafah crossing (Gaza’s single
crossing point with Egypt) to daily use by the Egyptian authorities. 
After 2007 Rafah was opened only intermittently to allow some
occasional movement.

Following Israel’s military action on 31 May 2010 against the aid
flotilla in international waters outside Gaza, the Egyptian authorities
announced they were opening the Rafah crossing point ‘indefinitely’. 
However, Egypt has yet to permit fully free passage of Palestinians
into its territory, allowing entry only to Palestinians with specially
obtained permits.

As the occupying power, Israel bears the foremost responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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