JERUSALEM (AFP) — Two Israeli rights groups demanded on Sunday that Israel lift fishing restrictions imposed on Gaza after militants fired two rockets across the border, slamming them as “collective punishment.”
Israel on Thursday halved the area in which Palestinian fishermen are permitted to work, closed the Kerem Shalom goods terminal and imposed restrictions on people wanting to leave the territory after two rockets hit southern Israel, causing damage but no casualties.
The move, which saw the fishing zone cut from six nautical miles to three, was condemned by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as well as by Gisha, which campaigns for Palestinian freedom of movement.
“The decision to once again reduce the fishing range in response to missile fire by armed groups constitutes collective punishment imposed on fishermen for the actions of others,” said a statement from B’Tselem.
It said Israel’s duty to protect its citizens “cannot justify the harsh damage to fishermen who have done nothing wrong”.
“B’Tselem calls on the military to rescind its latest decision and the restrictions imposed on fishermen in the Gaza Strip in the past years, and to permit fishing in the 20 (nautical) miles range, as was set under the Oslo agreements.”
In a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Gisha director Sari Bashi said it was “the second time in less than a month” Israel had blocked civilian travel and goods transfer in response to rocket fire and urged him to lift the restrictions.
“In the last month, there appears to be a new policy toward the Gaza Strip, in which Israel is openly restricting civilian movement to and from Gaza, not because of a concrete security necessity, but rather as a punitive step taken against the civilian population in direct response to fire by combatants,” she wrote.
The group condemned the rocket fire as “a blatant violation” of international law, but also noted Israel’s obligation to avoid harming civilians, saying the recent steps were “entirely unacceptable.”
Israel on Friday resumed full diplomatic ties with Turkey after apologizing for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead.
As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged “to work on improving the humanitarian situation” in the Palestinian territories in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan brokered by US President Barack Obama on a landmark visit.
Islamic Jihad on Sunday slammed the Israeli apology as “poisonous.”
It was an “imaginary victory for Turkey and a poisoned apology from Israel… which came under pressure from (US President Barack) Obama,” Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said in a statement on the group’s Facebook page.
Batsh said the apology was an Israeli attempt to “renew military, security and political cooperation with Turkey… and to prevent it from improving any further than necessary its relationship with the Islamist dimension: Iran and Egypt.”
“The suggestion that this is a victory for Turkey is one of lies. It will not result in lifting the blockade (on Gaza) — the one who will benefit is the Zionist enemy,” he said. (end)
The Brutal Blockade on Gaza
Editorial- Arab News | June 15, 2011Gaza reels under five years of Israeli siege as the world community stands and stares
It has been five years since Israel imposed its oppressive and inhuman blockade on the Gaza Strip. Without doubt it has been easily one of the toughest and most trying periods in the eventful history of the Palestinian people. The proud and fiercely independent people, however, have refused to give in to Israeli diktats or allow their fighting spirit to waver under the totally asphyxiating blockade of Gaza by land, air and sea.
However, the Palestinians have had a monumental price to pay for their defiance. The United Nations report on Gaza, issued to mark the five nightmarish years of Israeli siege on Tuesday, makes for disturbing reading and must come as a wake-up call to the world’s sleeping conscience. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has slammed Israel for the acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza, warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Nearly half of Gaza’s population is unemployed. Wages have fallen 34.5 percent since 2006 when Israel inflicted its “sanctions” on Gaza imprisoning its entire population for the sin of electing Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections. Most of Gaza’s population is not just desperately impoverished, it craves and has to fight for basics such as food, medicines to fuel. Nothing can get in — or get out. Many put their lives on line to smuggle in these “valuables” using those tunnels under Gaza’s Rafah border with Egypt. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian refugees, the poorest of the poor who make up two-thirds of the Strip’s population, are the worst hit.
An anguished UNWRA says it’s “hard to understand the logic” of deliberately impoverishing so many and condemning hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution. But then whoever said there was any logic or reason behind any of Israel’s actions? If Israel had ever been inspired by reason or common sense, we wouldn’t have this crisis created by the world’s longest occupation in the first place.
Ironically, the UN claims, the punitive Israeli blockade has failed to affect or weaken Hamas or made it any less popular. Indeed, the UN findings suggest the Hamas government in Gaza has been able to actually increase public employment by one fifth even as private sector jobs have vanished in the same period.
The question is, how long will this shameful state of affairs continue? How much more an already persecuted people have to suffer before the world community — if there’s such a things as the world community— decides to confront Israel and its powerful patrons?
What is the Palestinian crime? The audacity to choose who they want as their representatives and leaders? Isn’t this the very freedom that people in Western democracies routinely exercise? Why does it become a problem when the same right is exercised by the Palestinians and Arabs? Why are international champions of democracy and freedom, howling over the atrocities of Libyan and Syrian regimes, silent on Israeli crimes? It is precisely because of this hypocrisy and double standards that no one today takes Western lectures on democracy and freedom seriously.