June 2014 marks the end of the seventh year of Israel’s unlawful closure of the Gaza strip.
Years of isolation, severe movement restrictions and impunity for violations of international law have further eroded the human rights of Gaza’s 1.
8 million Palestinians.
Given the dire conditions in Gaza and ahead of the June EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting, EMHRN calls on the EU and its Member States to take affirmative action to bring the closure to an end, and ensure strict respect for international law in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Although the EU has repeatedly called for the lifting of the Israeli closure, it has failed to back these calls with concrete actions and has remained reluctant to address the wider culture of impunity in which such violations thrive.
As the EU reflects on the implications of the collapse of the peace process and as tensions mount on the ground, it is vital that the EU and its Member States take concerted and affirmative action with its Member States to ensure strict respect for international law, the protection of civilians and the lifting of the Israeli closure.
This, coupled with the strengthening of links between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, are critical first steps towards achieving sustainable peace in the region.
In light of this, EMHRN calls on the EU and its Member States to: - Take all measures at its disposal, including in the context of its bilateral relations with Israel to ensure an immediate, unconditional and complete lifting of the closure of the Gaza Strip; - Urge Israel to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, by conducting investigations that meet international standards into alleged violations of international law, prosecuting those responsible and guaranteeing redress and compensation for damages suffered; - Actively support the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process through the provision of political, technical and financial support and respect the will of the Palestinian people as expressed through free and fair elections under a future unity government that is respectful of the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people.
- Urge Egypt to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza.
Further information on the situation in the Gaza Strip As affirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross and several international NGOs, Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip constitutes a form of collective punishment in violation of international humanitarian law.
The closure forms part of a wider policy aiming at entrenching the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
For years, this policy has sought to undermine Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Recent attempts by the Israeli government to obstruct the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process, including by refusing passage to prospective ministers from Gaza to the West Bank and the threats to withhold the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues illustrate Israel’s determination to continue to deny Palestinians of this right.
Israel continues to use movement restrictions in a way that goes well beyond legitimate measures to address what could be accepted as its security needs.
In so doing, Israel denies Palestinians their right to family life, education and health and violates its obligation to provide for the safety and welfare of the occupied population.
Since 2000, there has been a total ban on travel from Gaza to the West Bank for the purpose of obtaining higher education in Palestinian universities.
Meanwhile patients, seeking medical treatment in the West Bank or abroad often face protracted delays in obtaining permits to exit through the Erez Crossing or worse yet, get arrested and interrogated by the Israeli authorities.
Denial of access to necessary medical care put patients in unnecessary danger and undermines their right to life and health.
This situation is further aggravated by Egypt’s limitations on the travel of Gaza’s residents at the Rafah Crossing and on the passage of humanitarian relief.
After years of import and export restrictions, the closure has ruined Gaza’s economy and basic infrastructure while increasing the percentage of the population dependent on humanitarian aid to a staggering 70%.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2014 stood at 40.
These figures are particularly high in the construction sector.
The transfer of goods from Gaza to the West Bank continues to be banned while a very limited number of goods are exported to Europe and abroad.
From January to April, an average of 20 truckloads of goods exited Gaza each month, or 2% of what exited monthly prior to 2007.
Israel has further violated the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants, by failing to refrain from launching indiscriminate attacks and to avoid the excessive use of force.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 11 Palestinian civilians were killed while 152 civilians were injured in Gaza’s access restricted areas on land and at sea between 1 January to 26 May 2014.
Recently the Israeli military opened fire on three brothers as they were collecting dry grass from an agricultural field located near the buffer zone, seriously injuring a 16-year-old boy.
Palestinian fishermen have also witnessed an escalation of Israeli attacks in the access restricted areas as the military forces continue to target, arrest and confiscate their equipment, thus depriving them of their right to livelihood and an adequate standard of living.
These attacks are carried out with complete impunity and form part of a wider trend of non-compliance with international law.
Six years since “Operation Cast Lead” and two years since “Operation Pillar of Defense”, Israel has failed to properly investigate or prosecute any breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by its military forces.
Eleven years since the killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, the perpetrators have still not been brought to justice.
Meanwhile, Palestinian victims continue to be denied access to Israeli courts and effective remedy through Israel’s imposition of legal, administrative, monetary and physical barriers.