Following the re-sealing of the Gaza-Egypt border on 3 February,
Amnesty International is concerned about the increasingly difficult
human rights situation and living conditions of some 1.5 million
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
"Egypt has the right to secure its border with Gaza, but a return to
the situation whereby the Gaza-Egypt border – Gazans' only means of
passage to the outside world – is completely sealed, as it has been for
the past seven months, is not acceptable," said Malcolm Smart, Director
of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"Whatever agreement about the management of the border is reached
between the governments of Israel and Egypt, the Palestinian Authority
and the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza, it must respect fully
the fundamental rights of the population of Gaza."
With the exception of the 10-day period after the breaching of the
Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah by Palestinian militants on 23 January, the
entire 1.5 million population of the Gaza Strip has been locked down
since June 2007.
Even patients in urgent need of medical care not available in Gaza have
been denied passage out of Gaza by the Israeli authorities. Dozens of
those who were unable to leave Gaza for medical care abroad have died
in recent months.
In the past few days, hundreds of patients who have been waiting to
leave Gaza for months and who crossed into Egypt through the breached
border were allowed by the Egyptian authorities to access hospitals
there or travel to other countries to obtain treatment. However, many
more remain in Gaza and now, once again, are unable to leave.
Medical facilities in Gaza lack the specialized staff and equipment to
treat a range of serious and life-threatening conditions, such as
cancer and cardiovascular illnesses. In recent months, a lack of spare
parts for hospital equipment and increasingly frequent power cuts have
further reduced the capacity of hospitals and health clinics.
The Israeli authorities continue to maintain a stifling blockade on
Gaza, which prevents the passage of essential goods, including medical
supplies and humanitarian assistance, into and out of Gaza.
Prior to the tightening of the Israeli blockade on Gaza last June, an
average of 250 trucks of goods entered Gaza daily, but between 18 and
29 January the Israeli authorities permitted only 32 truckloads of
goods into Gaza. UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have
complained for months that the Israeli blockade prevents them from
delivering adequate quantities of aid to satisfy the growing
humanitarian needs of the population of Gaza.
Most of Gaza’s population is living in abject poverty and has been
forced to depend on international humanitarian assistance as a result
of the Israeli blockade, which has destroyed the local economy.
The Israeli government claims that the tightening of the blockade on
Gaza is in response to the frequent firing of home-made rockets by
Palestinian armed groups from Gaza into neighbouring areas in southern
Israel. On 30 January, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition by
10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations seeking to stop
the Israeli government from cutting supplies of fuel and electricity to
the Gaza Strip.
Israel has a right to take measures to protect its population from
Palestinian rocket attacks, which target Israeli civilians and violate
international law. However, its imposition of such a punitive blockade
on Gaza’s entire population for the action of some Palestinian
militants constitutes collective punishment and violates international
Amnesty International is renewing its call on the Israeli authorities
to lift its blockade on Gaza and to expedite access to medical care for
patients in need of urgent medical treatment not available in Gaza. It
is urging Hamas, as the de-facto administration in Gaza, to put an
immediate end to the firing of rockets – by its own militias and by
other armed groups.
It is urging Israel, the Egyptian
Government and the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas de-facto
administration in Gaza and the international community to work
constructively for a solution that ensures the security of the civilian
population in Israel, Egypt and Gaza, and that ensures that the rights of 1.5 millions of Palestinians in Gaza are respected.