PCHR deplores Israel’s unprecedented actions against internationals

Israeli authorities are continuing to impose severe measures on internationals moving in and out of the Gaza Strip. As of today, 18 May 2003, with the exception of some United Nations staff and a small number of humanitarian workers, internationals are being prevented from entering or leaving the Gaza Strip.

Severe restrictions have been imposed on the Gaza Strip since the beginning of May; however, last week witnessed a broadening of the scope of the crackdown to include entry into Israel. On 13 May 2003, the Middle East and North Africa Head of the Ford Foundation was denied entry into Israel, and on 14 May 2003, the Human Rights Officer from the same organisation was deported back to Athens.

These unprecedented measures are severely affecting the international community who work and reside in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the actions being taken against internationals are resulting in negative repercussions for the Palestinians who rely on international organisations for humanitarian aid and assistance.

The crackdown on internationals in the Gaza Strip contradicts basic human rights, in particular the right to freedom of movement, as the Israeli authorities are preventing internationals from entering and exiting the Gaza Strip, as well as denying freedom of movement within the confines of the Gaza Strip as well.

As of Saturday 10 May 2003, UNAIS — an international NGO — has been prevented from conducting its work in the Gaza Strip. As one of PCHR’s long standing partners UNAIS, has been totally banned from carrying out its activities in the Gaza Strip and 3 UNAIS Development Workers have been prevented re-entry into the Gaza Strip.

This denial of access is greatly affecting Palestinians who depend on the assistance of international NGOs for medical and humanitarian aid. This comes in the context of an already deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip that is just barely being held together by the goodwill of international organisations living and working in the region.

PCHR believes that these policies towards internationals will also have a negative impact on the work of UNRWA, the primary humanitarian organisation for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While the organisation continues to provide services to most of the Gaza Strip’s population, UNRWA will be faced with an increased workload due to the incapacity of many of their partner organisations to conduct their work.

PCHR would like to reiterate that these measures come in the context of an increase in criticism levelled at the Israeli government for illegal actions carried out by Israeli occupying forces in the Gaza Strip, including house demolitions, targeted assassinations, land levelling and restriction of movement, as well as a series of attacks on internationals during the past three months: Rachel Corrie, an American citizen was killed when an Israeli army bulldozer ran her over; Brian Avery, an American citizen was seriously wounded when he was shot in the face; Tom Hurndall, a British citizen is clinically dead after being shot in the head by Israeli forces; and a British cameraman, James Miller was killed while filming a documentary about the plight of Palestinian children.

PCHR would also like to draw attention to the campaign that is being waged by Israeli authorities against the commendable work of international solidarity movements, who strive to bring attention to the plight of the Palestinian people. However, as these movements and by extension awareness about the Palestinian cause increases, Israeli authorities are defaming these groups in the hopes of undermining their credibility. Individuals from solidarity groups have also been directly targeted and in the last week a number of members of solidarity groups in both the West Bank and Gaza were imprisoned, pending deportation.

PCHR deplores the harsh measures taken by Israel against Palestinian solidarity groups, as well as the wider policies being applied to internationals in general in the Gaza Strip and appeals to the international community to step in to bring about an end to this situation.

For more information:

PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 7 2824776 PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. Web: www.pchrgaza.org