maandag, september 24, 2007

Ter info: One and a Half Million People Collectively Punished Gaza

[P/R Europees parlement over Gaza: One and a Half Million People Collectively Punished]

PRESS RELEASE ByLUISA MORGANTINI, Vice President of the European Parliament

September 21st, 2007

Gaza is a strip of land of less than 400 square kilometres in which 1.5 million people live as prisoners due to the closure and the consequential economic isolation imposed unilaterally and illegally by the Israeli authorities. Gaza is a cage from which very few manage to escape or enter: hundreds of sick people in need of treatment abroad are forced to wait, and more than 600 students with scholarships in these last days of total closure are trapped here, losing out on their future. Israel's declaration of Gaza as an "enemy entity" adds a new formula to the already indefinite muddle of international legality. Instead, to cut off electricity and fuel is an additional violation of international law, a collective punishment.

Together with a delegation from the European Parliament and accompanied by UNRWA, the UN agency for the assistance to the Palestinian refugees, we managed to enter Gaza before Yom Kippur, a holiday for Israelis but a lockdown for Palestinians since the Israeli army has imposed a three day long closure. Gaza is nearly a ghost town: few people in the street, few cars, many houses destroyed by Israeli raids, hospitals without resources, infrastructure condemned to being abandoned due to lack of funds and basic materials. The factories located in the Karni industrial area are closed with their warehouses containing hundreds of tons of materials, furniture ready to be exported to Israel or Jordan and clothes to be sold for the summer season, now over. This amounts to losses of millions and millions of dollars while there are desperate families that don't even have a chance to buy bread. It's Ramadan, but the few open shops in Gaza have not displayed the dough for kataief, the traditional Ramadan sweet, as would usually happen here and as is happening in the West Bank.

The launching of Qassam rockets by Palestinian extremist groups on Sderot are to be condemned, but the embargo imposed by the Israeli government needs to cease immediately. This policy is barbed wire across the road to peace. This is what is being asked by the UN and the EU, voices which Israel cannot pretend to ignore. Too many times, its violation of international humanitarian laws, in the West Bank as well as in Gaza, have remained tolerated and unpunished. To begin with, the lack of respect for UN resolutions, the construction of the Wall, declared illegal four years ago by the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and the systematic and legalized theft of Palestinian's land. As the population is kept prisoner in Gaza, the same is true in the West Bank, where Palestinians are divided from Palestinians when not by the Wall, by more than 600 checkpoints and soldiers throughout the Territories. However, the voices of alarm need to develop into concrete action to avoid not only the loss of human lives, dignity and freedom for the Palestinian population, but also the extermination of international law.

As members of the European Parliament, we have demanded the EU to take a clear position against the embargo adopted by the Israeli authorities in Gaza and that Israel remove checkpoints and roadblocks so that Palestinians, as well as their goods, have freedom of movement and their daily life not be this Inferno. This needs to happen now, it cannot wait until the conference organized by the US in November, to which the different parties of the conflicts in the area should participate, to bring about a definitive solution in accordance with UN resolutions.

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