Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Paralyze Lives of Civilians in the Gaza Strip

Palestinians stock up on goods in preparation for a possible Israeli army invasion of Gaza June 27, 2006. (MaanImages/Thaeer al-Hassany)

PCHR views with gravity the collective punishment currently being imposed by IOF on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. This punishment is being inflicted through the complete land and sea closure of the Gaza Strip, including the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point on the border with Egypt, prevention of fishermen from going out to sea and constant aerial surveillance. In addition, PCHR is apprehensive over the consequences of the current situation, following the military operation near Kerem Shalom checkpoint on Sunday 25 June 2006, and the possibility of a wide scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. The operation resulted in the death of two Palestinians from the group that conducted the operation and two IOF soldiers. Another IOF soldier was taken prisoner during the operation.

According to field information, Rafah International Crossing Point was closed on 21 June 2006, due to the absence of the European monitors. The spokesperson for the monitors indicated that they did not come to the crossing due to an Israeli security alert regarding an impending attack on Kerem Shalom checkpoint. The crossing has been completely closed since Sunday, 25 June 2006, following the military operation at Kerem Shalom. Hundreds of Palestinian travelers are stuck on the Egyptian side of the border. Among these travelers are women, children, elderly and ill persons returning after medical treatment in Egypt. They are enduring inadequate living and health conditions while waiting to enter Gaza.

Furthermore, IOF have closed the other crossings into the Gaza Strip: El-Muntar (Karni) Commercial Crossing; Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing - designated for workers, humanitarian cases and international workers; Sofa Crossing - designated for construction material; and Kerem Shalom Crossing - used for food and medical humanitarian assistance.

It is noted that the closure of Gaza Strip border crossings, since the Border Crossings Agreement between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel on 15 November 2005, has created a disastrous economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Since the signing of the agreement, El-Muntar Crossing has been completely closed for 96 days and partially closed for 162 days. As a result, the import and export of medicine and other commodities was kept at a standstill for the majority of this time, causing further economic strangulation of the Gaza Strip and a lack of essential goods such as milk and fruits in the local market. In addition, agricultural and industrial exports from the Strip have been barred.

PCHR calls upon the international community to exert pressure on IOF to respect International Humanitarian Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, and to immediately end the closure and isolation that is worsening an already dire situation in the Gaza Strip. The continuation of the closure will have catastrophic effects on the living conditions of civilians and accentuate the existing problems of poverty and unemployment. PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure IOF to reopen El-Muntar Crossing, Sofa Crossing, Beith Hanoun Crossing and Rafah International Crossing Point, in order to allow Palestinians enjoy their rights to freedom of movement and to import and export goods. The lifting of the closure will put an end to the daily suffering of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, whose civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are currently being violated.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.