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. ©AFP)

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)

Tags: #ICC4Israel

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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