- What is the benefit to the Egyptians from the continuous closure of the Rafah crossing, the only crossing that allows the million and a half persons living in Gaza to have contact with the world?
- What are the motives that make the Egyptian government insist on the closure of the crossing, denying Palestinian students, patients, traders to reach their universities, hospitals, business partners?
The Egyptian Government continues to tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip side by side with israel and works to aggravate the humanitarian situation in Gaza in contravention to international laws which their country has signed. The residents of the Gaza Strip live under an unjust policy of the siege which has been imposed on them continuously for nearly 7 year by israel with the collusion of western as well as Arab countries.
Newborn Baby Dies – On Friday 27 September 2013, new Palestinian born baby Mohammed Adel Al Mashharawi died as his mother was not able to reach hospital on time due to the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. His mother Eman Hamdi Dughmush, 38, was waiting at Cairo Airport and in the vicinity of Rafah crossing to be allowed to enter Gaza.
In her affidavit to Al Mezan, Eman stated that she had waited for one day at Cairo Airport and for another day nearby Rafah crossing. She was not able to reach hospital in Egypt due to the imposed curfew and the security circumstances. She was forced to give birth to Mohammed in Egypt because she was not allowed to enter Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights asserts that Israeli siege imposed on Gaza Strip is violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The international community must insist on a complete lift of Israel’s illegal siege of the Gaza Strip rather than easing the restrictions as the current negotiations seem to be deciding. The dire situation in the Gaza Strip cannot be reduced to a merely ‘humanitarian crisis’, as it is basically a human rights crisis borne out of the occupation and continuing closure of the Gaza Strip. The humanitarian aspects of the siege are only symptoms. Dealing with them alone cannot provide an answer to the root causes of the current crisis now or in the future. Furthermore, the proposals also risk exacerbating the separation and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.
Following the international condemnation of the Israeli attack on the flotilla fleet carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the deaths of 9 solidarity activists, criticism of Israel’s actions has veered towards easing the siege instead of ending it. Once again, voices from international community stressed the illegal nature of the siege, which represents a measure of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza. This measure has been tolerated for too long. In September 2013, the Israeli authorities allowed the entry of construction materials for Palestinian private sector and it announced it will increase the amount of fuel allowed into the Gaza Strip.
Approximately four thousands of Palestinians, including Palestinian families living in other countries and university students who study abroad, have been stuck in Gaza they may lose their work and study due to the Israeli closure and siege. According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 1,000 critically patients are supposed to travel monthly to receive medical treatment at Egyptian hospitals. The closure of Rafah crossing comes amidst the continuous Israeli prevention of Palestinians from freedom of travelling via Erez crossing. Moreover, the Israeli authorities blackmail and detain Palestinian patients who seek travel via Erez crossing
The proposals to ease the siege should not be accepted as sufficient by the international community. They focus on the entry of more goods into Gaza while ignoring the movement of Palestinians within their own territory; that is between Gaza and the West Bank (including Jerusalem). They focus on imports and completely ignore exports. The freedom of movement for the people of Gaza will remain tightly controlled as it is currently with only certain people such as some of the patients and students potentially being able to leave. Gaza students are expected to continue to be prohibited from studying in the West Bank universities.
Al Mezan Centre is dismayed at the failure of the international community to take concrete action to lift the Israeli-imposed siege in its entirety as the first step towards ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Many governments have recognized that the siege is unsustainable. The ICRC has declared it a violation of international humanitarian law which constitutes collective punishment.
“It is intolerable that discussions among the major players have focused on a step-by-step approach to addressing the siege,” Issam, Younis said. “Governments in the international community are continuing to give priority to Israel’s self-defence while the population of Gaza is being collectively punished and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination ignored.”
Governments should recognize that the siege is a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and constitutes collective punishment. Al Mezan calls on the international community to end the siege on the Gaza Strip. All restrictions on the Gaza Strip including the movement of people should be lifted unconditionally and immediately. The international community should work towards ending the occupation and enabling the Palestinian people to enjoy their rights; including to self-determination.