"Under Fire", which was co-written by
the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Internal Displacement
Monitoring Centre (IDMC), was launched in the Gaza Strip on 03 April 2014, in
Gaza City. A significant number of diplomats and representatives of
community-based an international organizations in the occupied Palestinian
territory (oPt) attended the event.
The report examines the devastating consequences of the Israeli
military’s access restrictions on land and sea near the Gaza peripheral area
– areas referred to as the Access
Restricted Areas (ARA) The ARA policy is often referred to as a “blockade
within a blockade” as it compounds the severe
humanitarian crisis of the larger Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The launch started with a documentary film on
the hardships Palestinian farmers face in trying to farm their land in the ARA.
Katleen Maes, Head of Gaza-Sub Office of United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), delivered a speech on the humanitarian
situation in the Gaza Strip. She discussed the Israeli-imposed closure since
2006 and its ramifications. She also discussed the situation in the ARA at land
Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, spoke
about the humanitarian conditions in the oPt. He explained the Israeli-imposed
closure is inhumane and illegal since it is a form of a collective punishment against
protected civilians. Sourani stressed that the situation in the Gaza Strip is
catastrophic and man-made. He added that the Israeli occupation is primarily
responsible for that catastrophe, but that the Quartet and the United Nations bear
responsibility as well since beyond providing the Gaza Strip with some
foodstuff and medicine, they have not taken any serious steps with Israel to
put an end to the Blockade. Concerning the situation in the West Bank, Sourani
highlighted the measures applied against the Palestinian civilians, including
house raids, arrests, house demolitions, land leveling and restrictions imposed
on the freedom of movement through hundreds of military checkpoints. He warned
that the situation is on the verge of explosion.
Guillaume Charron from IDMC Geneva talked about
the repeated cases in which civilians in Gaza were forced to flee their places
of residence before, during and after Israeli military operations. Charron also discussed the consequences of
the displacement of civilians from their places of residence and the situation
in the ARA whose residents were forced to leave it. He added that according to the UN, 12% of the
Gaza Strip population was directly affected by the Israeli measures taken in
the ARA and emphasized that Israel as an occupying power is obliged to protect
civilians from displacement and prevent it.
Mkhaimar Abu Sada, Associate Professor of
Political Science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, stressed that the closure
imposed on the Palestinian people is an old policy which was tightened after
Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections – violating basic democracy principles that the
international community calls for. Mkhaimar called upon the international
community and Israel to revise its policy adopted against the Gaza Strip as the
last seven years have proven that the Blockade is a failed policy which has
only resulted in human suffering and not political change.
Following the interventions, there was a
discussion during which speakers answered questions addressed by the audience.
In addition to the event, PCHR organized a
field trip for the diplomats who participated in the event. During the trip, they visited the Gaza port
where they met with fishermen, who were victims of the Israeli ARA policy. The
fishermen talked about the constant harassment and dangers they face in fishing
in Gaza territorial waters from Israeli naval forces. The diplomats also
visited the Johr al-Deek border area and met with a family whose home was hit
several times by Israeli artillery, resulting in the tragic death of one of
their family members. The family also
talked about the destruction of their home, the lack of access to justice and
the continued targeting of the area by the Israeli forces.
The ARA report was launched internationally in
London on 01 February 2014, and Lawyer Sourani participated in that event
from Gaza via Skype.
To see Under Fire report, click here.