AMNESTY: ISRAEL ‘COLLECTIVELY PUNISHING’ GAZA
COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 21 January 2010
by Middle East Online
AI: Israel as occupying power bears foremost responsibility for ensuring welfare of Gazans.
Amnesty International on Monday [Jan 18 2010] accused Israel of "collectively punishing" the population of Gaza with border closures tightened after the democratically elected Hamas movement’s 2007 takeover.
The British-based rights group said the firing of rockets by Palestinian resistance — which the Israeli military says has dropped by about 90 percent since its offensive in Gaza last year — did not justify the sanctions.
"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," said Malcolm Smart, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director, in a statement.
"The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately."
Amnesty said Egypt was partly to blame because it only occasionally opens its Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip — the only terminal bypassing Israel.
It also faulted Cairo for starting work on an underground border wall in a bid to halt the smuggling tunnels that have become an economic lifeline to the territory.
"However, as the occupying power, it is Israel that bears the foremost responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza," Amnesty said.
Responding to the report, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev blamed Hamas.
Monday was the one-year anniversary of the mutual ceasefires that ended the 22-day Gaza war, which killed about 1,400 Palestinians – mainly civilians – and flattened entire neighbourhoods. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the fighting.
Israel imposed stricter sanctions on Gaza in 2006 following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas and other resistance in a deadly cross-border raid.
It tightened the blockade when Hamas seized power in June 2007 to prevent a US-backed Fatah coup against Hamas’s democratic election.
Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.
The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza’s sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, rarely opens as Egypt is under immense US and Israeli pressure to keep the crossing shut.
Fatah has little administrative say in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and has no power in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, both of which are Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel in 1967.
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