Wednesday, February 6, 2008

UPDATE ON PROTESTS AGAINST GAZA SIEGE- The Palestinian Return Centre

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UPDATE ON PROTESTS AGAINST GAZA SIEGE

The Palestinian Return Centre

On 22nd January the Palestinian Return Centre hosted a seminar in the House of Commons to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip. The session was attended by a number of parliamentarians among them; Richard Burden, Phyliss Starkey, Brian Iddon, Alistair Carmichael, Neil Gerrard and Lord Nazir Ahmad. All the members deplored the immense human suffering caused by the siege of Gaza and affirmed their continued support for efforts to end the sanctions.

On 26th January a massive vigil was held outside No 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The vigil was organized by the Palestinian Return Centre, The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Palestinian Forum in Britain and a number of other civil society bodies.

The European Campaign to End the Sanctions on Gaza held a picket in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Monday 28th January. The Campaign which includes the Palestinian Return Centre London brought together protesters from all over Europe .

As part of their ongoing efforts against the siege of Gaza a delegation from the Return Centre and members of the European Campaign to End the Sanctions met with the vice president of the European parliament Mrs Louisa Morgantini on 29th January at the parliament in Brussels . Mrs Morgantini informed the delegation that she and a team of European parliamentarians intended to visit the Gaza Strip in the near future.

In a related development the European member assigned to contact the Palestinian Legislative Council, Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, expressed grave concern over the continued detention of one-third of the elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Israeli prisons. Triantaphyllides and British Green Party member of the parliament Caroline Lucas assured the delegation that it was impossible to remain silent over the current humanitarian situation in Occupied Palestine.

For more details please contact:

PRC

100A Crown House, North Circular Road , London , NW10 7PN

Tel: 02084530919

Fax: 02084530994

Email: prc@prc.org. uk

Web: www.prc.org. uk

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GAZA: THE FACTS

22nd January 2008

“The killing of some forty Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a Government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel’s respect for international law and its commitment to the peace process.”

John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories , Geneva , 18 January 2008.

  • The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is a direct consequence of the sustained siege of the territory that began in 2006 following the victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections.
  • Throughout the past two years the five border crossings to the Gaza Strip were regularly closed sometimes for months by the Israel army.
  • Since June 2007 the complete closure of the crossings has rendered all movement in and out of Gaza virtually impossible. Thousands of Palestinians have been unable to attend work, pursue studies or obtain medical treatment abroad.
  • 85% of Gaza ’s population depends on international food aid. If this situation obtained anywhere else in the world it would have been declared a disaster zone.
  • Israel’s decision to withhold fuel supplies for Gaza ’s 1.6 million inhabitants affects every aspect of life. One of the worst hit areas is that of water supplies. Most of the people in the territory live in high rise buildings. The supply of water to them depends on the availability of electricity and fuel.
  • In normal circumstances hospitals in the Gaza need at least 80,000 litre of fuel daily. When supplies are disrupted the need jumps to 200,000 litres.
  • On 20th January 2008 reserve supplies of fuel at the Khan Younis Hospital [funded by the European Union] was down to 10,000 litres. Normal reserve supplies are supposed to be 120,000 litres
  • The siege has devastated the Gazan economy. The shortage of food supplies have sent prices rocketing. More than 3,500 business and factories have been forced to close their doors.

· 80% of all industrial sector businesses are either temporarily shut down or running at below 20% capacity. This sector is 95% dependant on imported raw materials, and over 66,000 workers have been temporarily laid off.

  • In the textile industry financial losses due to the blockade now exceeds $30 million. Losses in the furniture industry are estimated at $20 million.

· Israel’s decision to withhold fuel supplies forced the closure of Gaza ’s only power plant on 20th January 2008, leaving 800,000 people in darkness and without heating at the height of the winter season.

· The inability to treat sewage and waste water as well as deliver clean drinking water without electricity raises the spectre of a major epidemic outbreak in the Gaza Strip.

  • On 20 January 2008, the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, which normally operates 130 wells and sewage treatment plants, confirmed that if the fuel supply was not restored within three days, these services will cease to function throughout the Gaza Strip.
  • The economic strangulation of Gaza has been accompanied by an intensification of Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip.
  • 69 Palestinians were killed during the first 19 days of 2008. They included four children and eight women.
  • Since the Annapolis peace talks on 28th November 2007 there has been a 219% rise in the number of Palestinians killed by the Israelis.
  • Figures for period 28th November 2007 – 20th January 2008

Total

Gaza Strip

West Bank

No. of Palestinians killed

146

136
(1 child)

10

No. of Palestinians injured

496

360
(6 children)

136

No. of Palestinians arrested

807

76

731
(4 children)

No. of Israeli military attacks

675

415

260

No. of Israelis killed

2
(2 soldiers)

-

2

· There are at present:

· 1,562 patients in need of treatment outside the Gaza Strip

· 322 patients in grave danger and in need of urgent treatment

· 470 cancer patients likely to die

· 107 classes of basic medicines depleted from Gaza Strip

· Israel’s current policy in relation to the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million inhabitants constitutes an unmitigated violation of international humanitarian law including, but not limited to, Israel ’s obligation as an Occupying Power to, at a minimum, ensure the basic needs of the population under its effective control, and the prohibitions on collective punishment, coercion and unlawful reprisals.

‘They are using the starvation and strangulation of civilians under occupation as a method of warfare, and collective punishment, outlawed in the Rome statute as war crimes. It is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, under Article 147, to wilfully cause "great suffering or serious injury to body or health".

Letter by the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) published in The Independent on 14th November 2007

Courtesy: The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), Palestine Monitor, The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)

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STATEMENT FROM EUROPEAN NGO’S:

THE IMMORAL SIEGE OF GAZA THREATENS THE LIVES OF ITS INHABITANTS

The Gaza Strip has been subjected to a total blockade for almost two years running. It threatens the lives of the Palestinians who remain in the territory and denies them of the most basic opportunities of a decent human existence. Since last summer the sanctions have been tightened on Gaza - a tiny piece of territory with one of the largest population density in the world. The blockade now affects the lives of Gaza ’s population in a most distressing manner. Most of them are refugees who inhabit decaying refugee camps.

The siege, which is supported by the Israeli Occupation Government, has reduced the Gaza Strip in which 1.5 million people reside to a veritable huge prison. None of the residents are able to leave the territory under any circumstances; not even the most desperate health cases, foreign-based students, expatriate workers or journalists and officials from humanitarian organizations.

The siege further prohibits the import of essential medicine as well as food and all forms of humanitarian aid. This includes; fuel supplies upon which the territory relies upon entirely from external sources, primary industrial raw material, construction material and other basic necessities of life.

The harsh sanctions have created many disturbing realities of far-reaching catastrophic dimensions, particularly in the areas of health, nutrition, education and humanitarian aid. They have resulted in the total paralysis of Gaza ’s industrial and economic sectors. There have also been serious consequences on the labour market, already suffering from records levels of unemployment - among the highest in the world.

Since the beginning of November 2007 the number of fatalities from the sanctions has risen markedly. One person dies very day as a consequence of the denial of medicine or the prevention of severe cases from travelling abroad for treatment. In all cases the victims possessed the required papers to prove they needed emergency medical treatment abroad.

The closure of the Rafah Crossing, the only opening to the outside world is a witness of the consequences of the strict sanctions imposed on the people of Gaza . For several months thousands of people have been stranded at the Crossing either in their attempt to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Among these are an estimated 3,000 students registered in foreign universities, colleges and schools. They were barred from leaving Gaza after visiting parents and relatives at beginning of the summer. The academic future of an entire Palestinian generation is now threatened in Gaza .

These critical developments come at a time when the Israeli Occupation Forces continue its daily military aggression against the Palestinian population of Gaza . Victims of every age die each day. There is, besides, widespread destruction of the civilian structures. To add insult to injury the Israeli government is still threatening to carry out a large-scale military invasion of Gaza in coming weeks. This completes the picture of the humanitarian situation.

It is most regrettable is that after all the repeated warnings in recent months from UN relief and humanitarian agencies as well as NGO’s concerning the dangers of the sanctions policy – the international community has ignored them completely. This has been evidenced in the case of those who uphold the sanctions, foremost among them being Israel and its collaborators.

We the undersigned in the light of these dangerous consequences of the blockade:

1. Condemn in the strongest terms the sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip. We draw attention to the inhuman and immoral nature of these policies which constitute a grave violation of international humanitarian law and human rights conventions.

2. We regard these sanctions on Gaza as a process of slow, programmed killing of its inhabitants and a violation of their right to life. It is a programmed destruction of what remains of their means of existence and their opportunities for a decent existence and secure future.

3. We strongly condemn the Israeli government for perpetuating the sanctions and its excessive indulgence in tightening them day after day. We hold the Israeli government responsible, being a partner in these policies for the victims and the catastrophic impact of the sanctions. This includes the international community that has ignored these violations and refused to intervene to stop them.

4. We draw the attention of all those concerned of their solemn responsibility and in this regard the Egyptian government to open the Rafah – Palestine Crossing given the fact that it is the only opening for the people of Gaza to the outside world.

5. We regard it as totally unacceptable that Europe should become complicit, directly or indirectly, in this policy of siege. We make this affirmation based on our recognition of the influence of the European governments in the region and the humanitarian and moral obligations they bear in accord with international treaties and conventions to protect human rights. We urge their immediate intervention to end these criminal sanctions and exert all forms of pressure necessary toward this end.

6. We urge the UN agencies, civil society bodies in Europe and internationally and all defenders of human rights and freedoms to raise their voices and double their efforts to bring effective pressure to bear in the interest of the rights of their fellow human beings in the Gaza Strip to health, education, life, movement and employment. They must all send a strong message to all the concerned parties that it is totally unacceptable that these policies should continue.

7. We declare that the sanctions imposed against 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip would remain the focus of our concerted interest and we regard this a moral duty binding on all people of conscience everywhere.

21 January 2007

Among the earliest signatories are:

The Palestinian Return Centre, UK, The Muslim Council of Britain, The Palestinian Forum in Britain, UK, British Muslim Initiative, UK, The European-Palestinia n Council, Vienna, The Palestinian Rights Foundation – Ireland, The Palestinian Forum – Denmark, The Palestinian Women’s Forum – Denmark, The Palestinian Youth Forum – Denmark, The Charitable Council in Support of Palestine – France, The Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe, The Palestinian Community in Norway, The Islamic Council of Russia – Moscow –, The Association of Social and Cultural Foundations – Moscow , The Al Quds Social and Cultural Centre – Moscow , The Palestinian Assistance Fund – Moscow , The Association of Healthy Life – Siberia , The Palestinian Forum for Rights and Solidarity – Holland, Al Quds Foundation – Holland, Palestinian Aid Foundation – Holland, The Palestinian Association – Holland, The Association for Aid to the Palestinian People – Italy, Rights For All – Switzerland

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