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Looming environmental catastrophe highlights urgency of lifting illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip

Image: “Gaza Beach is their only destination” – credit: A’aed Baker, PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine
Image: “Gaza Beach is their only destination” – credit: A’aed Baker, PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine

Since June 2007, Israel’s 16-year illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip has denied the free movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza. In 2016, the UN Secretary-General called it “a collective punishment for which there must be accountability”.

Friends of Earth International strongly condemns the ongoing Israeli violations against the Gaza Strip, including blockade, starvation and siege, as crimes against humanity.

The impact of this closure on the economic, political and social crisis in Gaza is huge, making the situation even more urgent. Half of Palestinians in Gaza now live in poverty, 80% depend on some form of humanitarian aid, 68% are food insecure, and 69% of the youth are unemployed. 

Read more in our report: Environmental injustice and violations of the Israeli occupation of Palestine

The lack of vital supplies, such as water and electricity , together with the deterioration of the environment, have made Gaza uninhabitable. Electricity runs from two to four hours a day. Only 4% of water is fit for human use. Up to 35% of Gaza’s agricultural land and as much as 85% of its fishing waters have been affected at various points. These restrictions prevent access to large farming and fishing areas, and their enforcement places civilians at serious physical risk. Methods of enforcement include use of live ammunition, detention and harassment of fisherfolk, levelling of farmland, destruction of private and public property, and confiscation of fishing boats.

Find out more: Water injustice in PalestinePodcast: The cost of Israeli occupation and exploitation of natural resources in Palestine

Israel’s current policy in relation to the Gaza Strip and its two million inhabitants constitutes an unmitigated violation of international humanitarian law. This includes, but is not limited to: Israel’s obligation as an Occupying Power to, at a minimum, ensure the basic needs of the population under its effective control; and prohibitions on collective punishment, coercion, unlawful reprisals and rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. The exercise of fundamental human rights under these circumstances is inconceivable.

Friends of the Earth International calls upon:

Israel to immediately cease all military operations in the Gaza Strip and end its policy of collective punishment; open border crossings to allow the movement of goods and people; restore the supply of fuel and humanitarian aid.

The international community to establish Israel’s obligations under international law in respect of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, including ending the collective punishment and ensuring access to essential medical services, food and water and sanitation, as an integral part of any negotiations.

Regional and international organisations and social movements in different parts of the world raise Israel’s violations of international law with elected officials in their home counties.

We stand in internationalist solidarity with Palestinian people. We demand the immediate lift of the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and an end to the collective punishment of Gaza’s population.

There can be no justification for denying humanitarian supplies, adequate water and electricity to an entire population for 16 years.

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