A UN human rights expert has called on Israel to reverse its decision to close the Kerem Shalom/Karm Abu Salem commercial crossing into Gaza.
The Israeli decision, announced on 9 July, prohibits the import of everything but food, animal fodder, livestock, fuels and medical supplies into Gaza, and bans all export from Gaza. Israel imposed these new restrictions in response to burning kites being sent by Palestinians into southern Israel from Gaza.
“This further tightening of an already-punitive and comprehensive blockade on Gaza will only worsen its dire humanitarian crisis,” said Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
“Gaza survives with four to six hours of daily electrical power, its drinkable water is almost exhausted, it endures the highest unemployment rates in the world, and its anaemic economy is already flat on its back.”
“Israel’s 11-year-old air, sea and land blockade has driven Gaza’s social and economic conditions steadily backwards. This amounts to the collective punishment of the two million residents of Gaza, which is strictly prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Although Israel removed its settlements and its military in 2005, it controls Gaza’s frontiers and determines who and what can enter and leave Gaza. As such, it maintains effective control over Gaza, and therefore remains the occupying power, with strict duties and responsibilities under international law.
“The flying of incendiary kites into southern Israel, which has caused the burning and destruction of agricultural fields, is to be deplored,” Mr. Lynk said. “However, imposing even greater social and economic harm on Gaza will not address Israel’s true security interests, and it profoundly violates the rights of the residents of Gaza.”
As well as closing the commercial crossing, Israel has once again restricted the fishing zone off Gaza from nine nautical miles to six. According to the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, the fishing zone had been set at 20 nautical miles.
Instead of punitive responses, the Special Rapporteur has called on Israel to reverse the closure of the Kerem Shalom/Karm Abu Salem crossing, and commit to lifting its comprehensive blockade, consistent with appropriate security arrangements.
“Only through the economic restoration of Gaza, and a guaranteed path for Palestinian self-determination and the end of the Israeli occupation, will tensions ease between Gaza and Israel. Collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, and further isolating it from the world, is exactly the wrong path – legally, politically and morally.”