Israel’s decision to block all fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip constitutes collective punishment and is likely to lead to a public health emergency, Amnesty International said today.
The organization called for an immediate lifting of the fuel blockade and of other restrictions which have effectively prevented entry or exit of people and goods from the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control in the territory, in which 1.5 million Palestinians live, in June 2007.
“More than 40 seriously ill patients have died since the Israeli authorities closed Gaza’s borders, so denying them access to hospital treatment abroad,” said Malcolm Smart,, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme director, “but now the entire Gaza population is being out at risk as electricity and fuel supplies run out.”
Amnesty International acknowledged Israel’s right to take measures to protect its population from rocket and other attacks by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, but condemned the Israeli authorities’ decision to cut off the already tightly restricted supplies of fuel, electricity and humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s inhabitants.
“This action appears calculated to make an already dire humanitarian situation worse, one in which the most vulnerable – the sick, the elderly, women and children – will bear the brunt, not the men of violence who carry out attacks against Israel,” said Malcolm Smart. “The rocket attacks should cease, and immediately, but the entire population of Gaza should not be put at risk to bring this about.”
Electricity and fuel, which have already been in short supply in Gaza for some time due to the Israeli blockades, are used to pump water and shortages have disastrous consequences for the health and well-being of a population already facing insufficient supplies of clean water for drinking and personal hygiene and inadequate sewage treatment and waste disposal. Already scarce food and medicines are getting spoilt as they cannot be refrigerated without power.
Critically ill patients in urgent need of medical treatment which is not available in Gaza are prohibited from leaving Gaza and some 40 have died as a result. The Israeli authorities cite unspecified “security” reasons but have proposed no alternative, proportionate means of addressing security concerns. The closure by Israel since early June of Gaza’s border with Egypt, Gaza’s only border crossing, has left the population effectively trapped and cut off from the outside world.
Patients are prevented from travelling to other countries for medical care and traders and students are denied the possibility to leave Gaza to take advantage of employment and education opportunities elsewhere.
The further tightening of the already stringent Israeli blockade imposed on the passage of goods into and out of Gaza will only prolong and worsen the paralysis of Gaza’s economy, which has already forced most of Gaza’s population to live below the poverty line and depend on international aid.
“Now, even crucial aid is not allowed to reach those that need it most in Gaza. These measures must be stopped and the passage of aid, fuel and electricity and other basic necessities must be allowed to resume immediately”, said Malcolm Smart.
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