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High Court: End dire situation at Rafah Crossing

Petition to High Court: End dire situation at Rafah Crossing

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, together with Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, and 12 residents of the Gaza Strip who are currently stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah Border Crossing, petitioned the Israeli High Court today demanding that the Israeli army immediately find an acceptable solution to the current crisis at the Rafah crossing.

Over 2500 Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip- including patients, children and the elderly- are currently stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing- some have been waiting there for more than two weeks.

One of the petitioners is a pregnant woman- the situation is putting the fetus as well as the mother’s health at risk. According to various health sources there are approximately 1000, or more, patients returning from medical care who are stranded.

Since 10 July 2004, the crossing has been closed in both directions and has been open for only 2 days. This has created a situation in which people returning from Egypt to Gaza, many after having undergone medical treatment, are unable to return home. They are also unable to return to Egypt because of monetary problems. The Rafah crossing is essentially the only exit and entrance point for Palestinian residents of the strip. The Israeli authorities say they closed the crossing for security reasons.

These people severely lack basic supplies such as medicines, food and water. The people are waiting in a small confined waiting area. From testimonies received by Al-Mezan Center and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the situation is dire.

The petitioners claim that Israel, as decreed in previous Israeli High Court rulings and according to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), is required to care for the humanitarian needs of these people, even though, due to the Israeli restrictions, they are physically located at the moment in Egypt. In addition, the High Court has already stated on a previous occasion (Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, et. al. petition to the High Court during the incursion into Rafah in May 2004) that the army must actively concern itself with caring for the health and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian civil population before it implements military action.

Currently, the Israeli army has offered only symbolic solutions to solving the problem, such as having 5 Palestinian buses a day transfer the people back into Gaza, via the Nitsanim crossing ( 70 km south of Rafah ). Being that over 2500 people are stranded, this solution is not truly an option.

The petitioners demand that the crossing be opened, and if this is not possible, that the army supply viable alternative solutions.

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