HRW: ‘Israel’ has turned Gaza into an open-air prison

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- Marking the 15th anniversary of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Gaza as an “open-air prison” which is part of Israel’s “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

“Israel’s sweeping restrictions on leaving Gaza deprive its more than two million residents of opportunities to better their lives,” HRW said in a report issued on Monday to mark the 15th anniversary of Israeli siege of the coastal enclave.

“Israel should end its generalized ban on travel for Gaza residents and permit free movement of people to and from Gaza, subject to, at most, individual screening, and physical searches for security purposes,” said Omar Shakir, ‘Israel’ and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

“Since 2007, Israeli authorities have, with narrow exceptions, banned Palestinians from leaving through Erez, the passenger crossing from Gaza into Israel, through which they can reach the West Bank and travel abroad via Jordan. Israel also prevents Palestinian authorities from operating an airport or seaport in Gaza. Israeli authorities also sharply restrict the entry and exit of goods,” the report added.

“Israeli authorities have said they want to minimize travel between Gaza and the West Bank to prevent the export of “a human terrorist network” from Gaza to the West Bank, which has a porous border with Israel and where hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers live.”

“Israel’s closure policy blocks most Gaza residents from going to the West Bank, preventing professionals, artists, athletes, students, and others from pursuing opportunities within Palestine and from traveling abroad via Israel, restricting their rights to work and an education.”

This policy has reduced travel to a fraction of what it was two decades ago, the HRW added.

“After 55 years of occupation and 15 years of closure in Gaza with no end in sight, Israel should fully respect the human rights of Palestinians, using as a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens.”

“Most Palestinians who grew up in Gaza under this closure have never left the 40-by-11 kilometer Gaza Strip.”

“For the last 25 years, Israel has increasingly restricted the movement of Gaza residents. Since June 2007, when Hamas seized control over Gaza from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), Gaza has been mostly closed,” HRW added.

The largest human rights organization based in the United States also pointed out that during the Israeli siege and “due to Israel’s restrictions, Egypt’s Rafah Crossing has become Gaza residents’ primary outlet to the outside world.”

HRW stressed, “Israel should end the generalised ban on travel to and from Gaza, and allow freedom of movement subject to, at most, individual screenings for security purposes.”

It also said, “Egypt should end its restrictive policies, including delays and mistreatment of travelers, that magnify the effects of Israel’s closure policy.”

“The Gaza closure blocks talented, professional people, with much to give their society, from pursuing opportunities that people elsewhere take for granted,” Shakir said.

“Barring Palestinians in Gaza from moving freely within their homeland stunts lives and underscores the cruel reality of apartheid and persecution for millions of Palestinians.”

HRW concluded that “Israel has an obligation to respect the human rights of Palestinians living in Gaza, including their right to freedom of movement throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and abroad, which affects both the right to leave a country and the right to enter their own country.”

“Israel is also obligated to respect Palestinians’ rights for which freedom of movement is a precondition, for example the rights to education, work, and health.”

“The UN Human Rights Committee has said that while states can restrict freedom of movement for security reasons or to protect public health, public order, and the rights of others, any such restrictions must be proportional and “the restrictions must not impair the essence of the right; the relation between the right and restriction, between norm and exception, must not be reversed.”

After 55 years of occupation and 15 years of closure in Gaza with no end in sight, HRW said, ‘Israel’ should fully respect the human rights of Palestinians, using as “a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens.”

“Israel should abandon an approach that bars movement absent exceptional individual humanitarian circumstances it defines, in favor of an approach that permits free movement absent exceptional individual security circumstances.”

(Source / 15.06.2022)

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