Life in Gaza

GENEVA – Life in Gaza has turned to be "intolerable, appalling and tragic" because of the Israeli closures that have turned the strip into a big prison, said the United Nations, describing the Israeli practices in the occupied territories as amounting to "ethnic cleansing".

"Gaza is a prison and Israel seems to have thrown away the key," John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, September 26, Reuters reported.

The UN envoy said the situation in the impoverished strip is now worse than any time before.

The Israeli blockade, raids and demolitions have left three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.4 million people now dependent on food aid, he maintained.

"In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions – the first time an occupied people has been so treated," he said.

"I hope that my portrayal… will trouble the consciences of those accustomed to turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Over the last six months, the Gaza Strip has sunk into the most severe crisis in 13 years due to the Israeli closures and a US-led aid cutoff after Hamas assumed office.

The Gaza economy is close to zero, with tens of civil servants have gone unpaid since late February, affecting the livelihood in the strip.

The relentless Israeli onslaughts in the strip, which killed more than 200 Palestinians, have exacerbated the Palestinian suffering.

Israel has launched the onslaught under the pretext of seeking to release a soldier taken prisoner by Palestinian fighters. But the Palestinians believe that it is nothing but a ruse to topple the Hamas-led government.

"What Israel chooses to describe as collateral damage to the civilian population is in fact indiscriminate killing prohibited by international law," Dugard said.

Ethnic Cleansing

The UN envoy said that the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were also on the verge of an imminent humanitarian crisis because of Israel’s separation wall.

He said Palestinians living between the barrier and the Green Line, the frontier at the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, could no longer freely access schools and places of work and many had abandoned local farms.

"In other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing but political correctness forbids such language where Israel is concerned," Dugard said.

The 700km-long barrier is a mix of electronic fences and concrete walls that will eventually snake some 900 kilometers (540 miles) along the West Bank and leave even larger swathes of its territory on the Israeli side.

It estimated that with the competition of the wall, 30 percent of the West Bank population, or some 680,000 people, will be "directly harmed".

After the International Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling branding the wall as illegal, the UN General Assembly asked Israel to tear it down and compensate the Palestinians affected.

Unpunished

The UN envoy also blasted the international community’s double standards in slapping economic sanctions on the Palestinian people while turning a blind eye to the Israeli violations.

"Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished," he said.

"But the Palestinian people are punished for having democratically elected a regime unacceptable to Israel, the U.S. and the EU."

He said the suffering of the Palestinian people was a test of the readiness of the international community to protect human rights.

"If … the international community cannot … take some action, (it) must not be surprised if the people … disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights," he said.

The gloomy UN portrayal comes as an Israeli human rights group described Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant as constituted a war crime under international law.

"The bombing of the power plant was illegal and defined as a war crime in international humanitarian law as the attack was aimed at a purely civilian object," rights group B’Tselem said in a report entitled "Act of Vengeance".

Israel destroyed the power plant at the beginning of its large-scale offensive in Gaza, claiming that the move aimed to bar Palestinian fighters from transferring the captured Israeli soldier.

"Even if one adopts the doubtful claim that the attack provided some definite military advantage, it was disproportionate and Israel had other, less harmful

Alternatives," the group said.

The rights group called on the Israeli government to pay to rebuild the $150 million plant, an operation which is expected to take nearly a year.

The United Nations in July described the bombing of the 140-megawatt facility as a disproportionate use of force and said it had contributed to worsening humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip.

© 2006 IslamOnline.net (Sep 27, 2006)

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