Rights groups speak out as new Israeli war haunts Gaza
A Palestinian man looks at the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war against the Gaza Strip, Sept. 8, 2015
Rights groups have expressed alarm over the lack of reconstruction and war crimes prosecutions in the Gaza Strip, two years after Israel’s devastating invasion of the besieged territory.
In a report ahead of Friday’s anniversary of the invasion, a coalition of leading NGOs urged Israel on Thursday to lift its crippling blockade of Gaza where more than 1.8 million Palestinians live in despicable conditions.
Amnesty International expressed its great frustration over the lack of genuine criminal investigations, saying it was “indefensible” that no criminal cases had been brought for alleged war crimes.
“During 50 days of attacks, Israeli forces wreaked massive death and destruction on the Gaza Strip, killing close to 1,500 civilians, more than 500 of whom were children,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther said.
According to UN figures, nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli invasion, including 577 children, and about 11,100 others injured.
Amnesty International said only three Israeli soldiers have been charged over the war, all for minor offences.
“The fact that no one has been held to account for war crimes that were evidently committed by both sides in the conflict is absolutely indefensible,” said Luther who is Amnesty’s director for Middle East and North Africa Program.
“Two years have passed and it’s high time the wheels of justice started turning,” he added.
Israel has maintained its decade-long blockade on the enclave, limiting the entry of many goods essential for construction.
According to AIDA, an umbrella body for major international NGOs working in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Tel Aviv’s siege is “severely impeding reconstruction and recovery” in Gaza.
Palestinian men work on the remains of a building, which was destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war against the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, April 30, 2016
“Unless it is lifted, Palestinians living in Gaza will be unable to move on with their lives and live in freedom, dignity and safety,” Chris Eijkemans, country director at AIDA with the British charity Oxfam, said.
Under the Israeli siege, Gaza’s economy has collapsed while Tel Aviv’s wars have wiped out the coastal territory’s infrastructure.
As a result, most roads remain destroyed, many areas desolated and homes, schools and medical centers toppled.
Around 20,000 homes were left totally uninhabitable in the war and more than 120,000 others at least partly damaged, according to the United Nations.
Unemployment rate of more than 47 percent in the Mediterranean enclave is one of the highest in the world.
With little or no improvement in their living conditions, residents in the Gaza Strip fear another Israeli invasion might be on the horizon, which would be the fourth since 2008.
“I am very worried a fourth war is coming. The occupation is threatening war on tunnels,” Mohammed Abu Daqa, a 26-year-old employee at a government school, was quoted as saying.
Israeli leaders have threatened to wage another war on the territory after allegedly uncovering two tunnels across the Egyptian border in May.
Tunnels are generally used by the Gazans to ship basic needs into the territory in the face of the Israeli blockade.
The Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has stepped up its demolition of those tunnels, choking off the last resort for sustenance by the Palestinians.
The AIDA statement called on “world leaders to live up to their commitments and press for an immediate end to the blockade.”
(Source / 07.07.2016)