Israeli 15-year-long blockade on Gaza is 'a crime against humanity': HRW

Israeli 15-year-long blockade on Gaza is 'a crime against humanity': HRW
Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, on Tuesday, condemned the ongoing 15-year Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
5 min read
15 June, 2022
Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation, on Tuesday, condemned the ongoing 15-year Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. [Getty]

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation, on Tuesday, condemned the ongoing 15-year Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

In a press statement sent to The New Arab, HRW said the Israeli blockade destroyed the economy in Gaza and contributed to the dispersal of the people.

"Israel, with the help of Egypt, turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison," HRW's statement said, adding that the restrictions of Tel Aviv and Cairo on Gaza have destroyed the lives of Palestinians.

It considered that the blockade is "part of two crimes against humanity, namely apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians."

The illegal Israeli blockade deprives more than two million residents of opportunities to improve their lives, whether by travelling for the purposes of foreign trade, study, medical treatment, or other opportunities, according to the report. 

As a result, it says, Palestinians have lost important opportunities for progress, which are not available in Gaza.

Since 2007, Israel has prevented Palestinians, with narrow exceptions, from leaving Gaza through the Erez Crossing, and the Palestinian authorities are also prohibited from operating an airport or seaport in Gaza.

In 2000, before the blockade, about 26,000 people used to leave Gaza through Erez per day. However, about 370 Palestinians only left the crossing between 2015-2019. 

HRW accused Israel of establishing an official policy of separation between Gaza and the West Bank, despite the international consensus that these two parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory constitute one territorial unit.

It called on Israel to end the state of closure and to allow citizens to freely move to and from the Gaza Strip, and to suffice - in the most extreme cases - with individual examinations and physical searches for security purposes.

HRW also held Israel responsible for the population of Gaza and it must provide the population with rights and protection, in accordance with international humanitarian law, as an occupying power that has great control over aspects of life in Gaza.

"Israel is obligated to respect the human rights of Palestinians living in Gaza, including their right to freedom of movement throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and abroad," the statement said. 

HRW called on Israel to abandon the approach that prevents movement except in exceptional individual humanitarian circumstances that it determines, in favour of an approach that allows freedom of movement except in exceptional individual security conditions.

Hazem Qassem, the spokesman of the Gaza-run Islamic Hamas movement, praised the report of the international organisation.

Qassem called on the international community and the United Nations "to stand up to their legal and humanitarian responsibilities towards the Palestinian people, work to end the unjust siege imposed on Gaza, and facilitate the free movement and travel of Palestinians."

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On June 14, 2007, Israel tightened its siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, after the Hamas movement took control of the enclave, something that caused the deterioration of the living conditions of more than two million citizens.

In the same context, the non-governmental organisation "Save the Children" warned that 80% of the children of the Palestinian Gaza Strip suffer from psychological distress, according to a report it published today, Wednesday, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the start of the Israeli siege on the Strip.

The report issued by the organisation, based in the UK, under the title "Trapped" said that the mental health of Palestinian children residing in the strip is deteriorating.

The director of the organisation in the Palestinian territories, Jason Lee, said, "The children we spoke to during the preparation of this report described their feelings as a constant state of fear, anxiety, and sadness."

Jason Lee added that these children suffer from "the inability to sleep and concentrate and are waiting for a new round of violence to erupt."

He pointed out that there is physical evidence of their plight, such as involuntary urination and loss of the ability to speak or complete basic tasks, stressing that this evidence "was shocking and should serve as a wake-up call for the international community."

The report indicated that the number of Gaza children who complain of symptoms of "depression, sadness and fear" has increased from 55 per cent to 80 per cent.

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Meanwhile, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza announced that the Israeli army killed 5,418 Palestinians in Gaza, among the dead, 23 per cent of children, and 9 per cent of women, in addition to injuring thousands of civilians.

In a report entitled "Gaza is a place unfit for life," the human rights centre said, during the past 15 years, the Israeli army destroyed about 3,118 commercial facilities, 557 factories, and 2,237 vehicles, in addition to destroying 12,631 housing units entirely, and more than 41 thousand housing units partially. 

It explained that successive Israeli governments turned "the Gaza crossings into a trap for the Palestinians, as they arrested 204 Palestinians while they were passing through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint."

It pointed out that the Israeli authorities placed restrictions on patients to obtain a permit for treatment in hospitals outside the Gaza Strip, as about 30% of applications submitted in this context were rejected, noting that this caused the death of 72 Palestinians, including 10 children and 25 women.

The centre called on the international community to desist from double standards in dealing with human rights violations and to assume its legal and moral responsibilities in ending the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

It also called on the international community "to hold accountable and prosecute all those who commit war crimes against the Palestinians," considering this matter "a means to limit violations and protect the civilian population."