‘If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.’ António Guterres, secretary general of the UN.
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) has joined calls for the UK government to take urgent action to end the blockade of Gaza.
The statement, signed by sixteen UK charities, including CAFOD and Christian Aid, said that under the ‘severe closure regime’ on the civilian population of Gaza since 2007, 2.1 million Palestinians have been left struggling to survive. ‘It is time for the UK government to demonstrate its consistent support for the rule of law and the rights of peoples under military occupation and urgently uphold its legal and moral duties to the Palestinian people.’
The UK government should work with the international community to: ensure the Israeli government allows people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip; support investigations into violations of international law; restore UK assistance to Palestinians; and reverse cuts to UNRWA, the charities suggest.
According to the statement – released on 20 July – the deliberate policy of closure means the people of Gaza, most of whom are refugees, suffer rolling power cuts eleven hours a day. Seventy-eight per cent of piped water is unfit for human consumption, and sixty-two per cent of Palestinians need food assistance. It also says that medical shortages and the delay or denial of permits to exit Gaza for vital medical treatment in the occupied West Bank or abroad has led to many deaths.
Hospitals, schools and universities have been destroyed and repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure are emboldened by the systemic impunity despite apparent serious violations of international law, the charities say.
The letter quotes the then-UK prime minister David Cameron calling Gaza in 2010 a ‘prison camp’ and, eleven years later, UN secretary general António Guterres saying: ‘If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.’
UN human rights experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross deem the closure of Gaza illegal under international law on the basis that it constitutes ‘collective punishment’.
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