Index: MDE 15/002/2010
Amnesty International January 2010
More than 1.4 million Palestinian men,women, and children are trapped in theGaza Strip. Their daily lives – in an area of land just 40 kilometres long and 9.5kilometres wide – are marked by powershortages, little or no running water of poorquality and deteriorating health care. Massunemployment, extreme poverty, and foodinsecurity both exacerbate and aredeepened by the impact of the Israeliblockade.Since the blockade of Gaza was broughtinto force in June 2007, the five Israeli-controlled crossings between Gaza andIsrael or the West Bank have been keptclosed (
see map on page 7
). The one otherland crossing at Rafah, on the borderbetween Gaza and Egypt, is controlled bythe Egyptian authorities and kept shut mostof the time. The closures prevent themovement of Palestinians into and out of Gaza in all but a handful of exceptionalhumanitarian cases.The blockade prohibits exports and restrictsthe entry of basic goods, including food andfuel. Much of the available food is providedby the UN and other aid agencies, orsmuggled in through tunnels running underthe Egypt-Gaza border and then sold on atexorbitantly high prices to Gaza’sbeleaguered residents. The blockade alsooften prevents people from receivingnecessary, urgent medical care, and frompursuing their livelihoods.From 27 December 2008 to 18 January2009, the inhabitants of Gaza weresubjected to a devastating Israeli militaryoffensive – Operation “Cast Lead” – whichIsrael said it carried out to stop Hamas andother Palestinian armed groups firingindiscriminate rockets into Israel. At least1,383 Palestinians were killed, includinghundreds of civilians, and thousands wereinjured. Many thousands of homes weredestroyed or severely damaged, as were theelectricity and water systems. Civilianbuildings, including hospitals and schools,were also damaged or destroyed. One yearafter Operation “Cast Lead”, Gaza remainslargely cut off from the outside world. Withmost construction materials barred byIsrael, Gaza’s inhabitants are unable torebuild their shattered lives.
“The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering.They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade.”
Maxwell Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator forthe occupied Palestinian territory
The Israeli authorities say the blockade is aresponse to attacks from Palestinian armedgroups, in particular the indiscriminaterockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.In November 2009, Hamas declared aunilateral cessation of rocket fire, althoughthis has been since been breached onseveral occasions by members of Palestinianarmed groups. Israeli military forces,meanwhile, have conducted regular raidsinto Gaza and have continued to bomb thetunnels under the border at Rafah used forsmuggling between Gaza and Egypt.In fact, whatever its stated justification, byrestricting the food, medical supplies,educational equipment, and buildingmaterials allowed into Gaza, the Israeliauthorities are collectively punishing theentire population of Gaza, the majority of whom are children, rather than targetingthose responsible for carrying out rocket orother attacks. The situation is made all theworse by the Egyptian government’scontinued general closure of the Rafahcrossing and, most recently, by itsconstruction of a steel wall along the borderat Rafah to disrupt the cross-bordersmuggling that has become Gaza’s lifeline.However, as the occupying power, it isIsrael that bears the foremost responsibilityfor ensuring the welfare of the inhabitantsof Gaza.
Israel opens the first checkpoint for enteringor leaving the Gaza Strip. As the decade wearson, more checkpoints are created and a fenceis built forcing people to pass through thecheckpoints, which open and closeintermittently and unpredictably. Palestiniansliving there are required to obtain specialpermits to travel to the West Bank.
Outbreak of the second
. Israel limitsthe granting of permits to enter or leave Gazato medical, “humanitarian” cases only.
Israel adopts a broad policy of arrestingPalestinians with registered addresses in Gazawho are living, working and studying in theWest Bank, and deporting them to Gaza.
Israel declares its “disengagement” from Gazaand withdraws Israeli settlers, but it retainscontrol of Gaza’s airspace, territorial watersand the land border with Israel. The Israelimilitary are removed from Rafah – Gaza’s onlycrossing point with Egypt – but Israel continuesto exercise substantial control over who isallowed to use the crossing.
Hamas wins the Palestinian Authority (PA)parliamentary elections; the internationalcommunity imposes an embargo on the PA andsuspends development projects in the WestBank and Gaza.
Hamas takes control in Gaza. An Israeliblockade restricting the entry of food, fuel, andother basic goods into Gaza begins. Movementof medical cases in and out of the area isrestricted and delayed. Gazan families are notallowed to visit relatives in Israeli jails. Egyptcloses the Rafah crossing to daily use, openingit intermittently to allow some occasionalmovement. By October 2008, only about onethird of the trucks of aid and imports that wereallowed to enter Gaza in May 2007 are beingallowed through.
27 December 2008
Israel launches a major military offensive –Operation “Cast Lead” – in Gaza, and preventsthe media and aid agencies from entering thearea. In the following three weeks, the Israelimilitary kills at least 1,383 Palestinians,including 333 children. Thirteen Israelis arekilled, including three civilians killed insouthern Israel in rocket attacks by Palestinianarmed groups.
THE GAZA STRIP: INCREASING ISOLATION
: The Bader flour mill was hitby an Israeli air attack during Operation“Cast Lead”.