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The collective punishment of the population of Gaza…

The collective punishment of the population of Gaza…

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has released a new report on the “Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population”.

The absolute closure of Gaza was imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover in June 2007. For more than three years and a half, this most extreme form of closure has been continuously applied to the so-called “hostile entity” that is the Gaza Strip, cutting off 1.7 million individuals from the outside world.

Gazans are not allowed to travel, with few exceptions mainly for humanitarian reasons.

Imports to Gaza have been prohibited, with only limited quantities of basic goods, mainly food, allowed entry for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. Israel has also imposed a total ban on the exports of the Gaza Strip’s products.

This 100-pages report details the devastating impact of the current absolute closure of Gaza on the socio-economic level and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the entire population of Gaza.

Such an impact have been exacerbated by Israel’s 27 December 2008-18 January 2009 military operation (codenamed “operation Cast Lead”) which caused extensive death and injuresof Palestinian civilians, and destruction of houses and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and industry. In the aftermath of the offensive, Israel illegally refused to open the borders of Gaza, thus impeding the passage of goods necessary for recovery and reconstruction. Nothing has substantially changed even after the alleged ‘easing’ of the closure, announced by Israel following the deadly attack on the humanitarian flotilla en route to Gaza on 31 May 2010.

The half of the people of Gaza is now unemployed and 4 out of 5 families are dependent on ‘humanitarian’ aid. 95% of the industrial establishments have closed or suspended their work due to the restrictions placed on the import of raw materials and as a result of the inability to export their products. According to UN sources, the poverty levels in the Gaza Strip are among the highest in the world.

By denying a people their ability to work and their right to move; by depriving families of the ability to rebuild their homes, which have been reduced to rubble; and by forcing individuals to give up generations-old family traditions, an entire population is being reduced to a ‘humanitarian problem’.

The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

The situation in Gaza cannot be isolated from the overall context of the occupation of the Palestinian territory. Equally, the closure policy is not a new phenomenon or one that is limited to the Gaza Strip. Israel has subjected the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to an illegal policy of harsh restrictions for almost two decades.

This report details the Israeli authorities’ responsibilities for the implementation of this illegal closure policy, which violates fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and the most basic human rights of the Palestinian population.

The International community has the duty to take measures to put an end to the closure of Gaza, which is inherently illegal and criminal in its nature. The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions have the duty to respect and ensure respect for the Conventions.This entails a duty to investigate and prosecute those responsiblefor grave breaches of the Conventions and to bring the perpetrators to justice before their own national courts (Art. 147 IV GC).

By failing to do so the international community bears responsibility for the manufactured ‘humanitarian’ crisis that is destroying Gaza, and for the serious violations of international law perpetrated against the Palestinian civilian population.

21 December 2010 — Palestinian Centre for Human Rights


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