[News] Red Cross lashes at Israel for Gaza siege

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 14 10:34:14 EDT 2010

ICRC lashes at Israel for Gaza siege

Mon, 14 Jun 2010 04:30:41 GMT

Palestinians hold a candle march in front of the Red Cross 
headquarters in Gaza City, April 11, 2010.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has demanded an 
end to Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip, saying the move violates the 
Geneva Conventions.

In an unprecedented criticism against Israel, the ICRC on Monday 
condemned the blockade for causing "acute hardships" for nearly 1.5 
million Palestinians in the territory.

"The whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts 
for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore 
constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of 
Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law," BBC 
quoted a statement by the agency.

Unequipped hospitals, hours-long blackouts, lack of drinkable water, 
poverty and unemployment are among the many problems Gazans suffer 
under the Israeli closure of their homeland, cutting off the coastal 
sliver from the outside world.

The Geneva-based group also rapped Israel over its May 31 attack on a 
humanitarian aid convoy and the killing of some 20 activists onboard 
the Freedom Flotilla. It said the onslaught highlights the plight of 
the Palestinians in the impoverished enclave.

The Red Cross further accused Israel of choking off any real 
possibility of economic development in the strip.


Red Cross: Gaza blockade illegal


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described 
Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as a violation of the Geneva 
Conventions and called on the Israeli government to lift it.

statement released on Monday, the organisation called the blockade 
"collective punishment", a crime under international law. It 
described Gaza as a territory plagued by frequent power cuts, a 
ruined economy, and a collapsed health care system.

"The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth 
year, choking off any real possibility of economic development," the ICRC said.

"Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, 
while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low."

Crippling shortages

Israeli officials insist that they provide enough "humanitarian aid" 
to cover Gaza's basic needs.

But the ICRC said the 
list of goods allowed into Gaza doesn't meet the needs of the 
territory's 1.5 million inhabitants.

Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, the head of the ICRC's Middle East 
operations, told Al Jazeera that the organisation - which 
traditionally remains neutral - was reluctant to publicly criticise 
the blockade. But she said three years of quiet efforts to ease the 
embargo did not result in any progress.

"The result has not been what we expected, and we thought that after 
three years the situation was dire enough, serious enough, to speak 
out publicly to try to break this closure of Gaza," she said.

The shortages are particularly dire in Gaza's health care system, 
where the ICRC said more than 100 essential medicines - including 
chemotherapy and hemophilia drugs - are unavailable. Many basic 
medical supplies, like colonoscopy bags, are also barred from Gaza 
and routine blackouts cause damage to medical equipment.

"The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse," 
Eileen Daly, the ICRC's health co-ordinator in Gaza, said.

"Thousands of patients could go without treatment, and the long-term 
outlook will be increasingly worrisome."

In Luxembourg on Monday, ministers from the European Union met to 
urge Israel to lift the blockade, describing it as "unacceptable and 
counterproductive", in a draft statement.

"The most important part of what we can do is to try and provide 
support to actually get the crossings open and to ... help people 
rebuild their homes, to provide for businesses, to try to support 
everyday things," Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, said.

Among the proposals being floated are giving the EU a renewed role in 
managing Gaza's main passenger crossing with Egypt.

B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, 
its own report on Monday documenting dire conditions in the 
Palestinian territories. The group noted that 95 per cent of Gaza's 
factories have closed, that 98 per cent of residents suffer from 
blackouts, and that 93 per cent of Gaza's water is polluted.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, on Sunday 
for an end to the blockade.

Hamas criticised

The ICRC also criticised Hamas, the Islamic movement which controls 
Gaza, for preventing the ICRC from visiting Gilad Shalit, the Israeli 
soldier captured in 2006. Shalit is entitled to visits from the Red 
Cross under international law.

"In violation of international humanitarian law, [Hamas] has also 
refused to allow him to get in touch with his family," the ICRC said.

But the bulk of the ICRC's criticism was directed at Israel's 
blockade. In addition to the health care problems, the ICRC noted 
that 40 per cent of Gaza's residents are not connected to a sewage 
system, and that restrictions on movement have driven many farmers 
and fishermen into poverty.

One-third of Gaza's farmland is located in a "buffer zone" controlled 
by the Israeli army, and boats are only allowed to fish within three 
nautical miles of Gaza's coast.

The ICRC demanded that both Israel and the Hamas government "allow 
and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage" of aid shipments to Gaza. 
refused to accept 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid seized from the 
<http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/gazaflotilla/>flotilla of aid 
ships attacked last month by the Israeli army.

The Israeli government 
on Sunday that a panel, chaired by former supreme court judge Yaakov 
Turkel, would investigate the flotilla attack.

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