B’Tselem & Al Jazeera – 2010-06-14 00:17:35
Siege Takes Toll on Gaza Children
International pressure has been mounting on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza since the deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Palestinian territory. The UN has said 80 percent of people there depend on food hand-outs. But Israeli officials insist that there is no humanitarian crisis in the enclave.
UN aid workers inside Gaza, however, see a different reality. Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from Gaza, where it has been reported that about 14 percent of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.
Israeli Report Finds Abuse of Palestinians ‘Widespread’
TEL AVIV (June 14, 2010) — The death toll in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was “much lower” in 2009 than previous years, but human rights abuses against Palestinians remain widespread, according to a new report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces dropped by more than 80 percent last year, the report pointed out on Monday. But human rights abuses still run rampant in the Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where B’Tselem blamed Israel’s blockade for “the collapse of the economy.” The report noted that 95 percent of Gaza’s factories have closed, that 98 percent of residents suffer from blackouts, and that 93 percent of Gaza’s water is polluted.
“Poverty and deprivation, which were widespread before the operation [Israel’s war on Gaza], have worsened still further,” the report said. “Absurdly, Israel’s decision to prevent imports and exports has encouraged the development of the tunnels economy between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which is controlled by Hamas and increases its power.”
B’Tselem also denounced what it described as a culture of impunity within the Israeli security forces.
“From the soldier at the checkpoint to the top echelon of the army and government, accountability for harming Palestinian civilians is the exception rather than the rule,” it said.
The report also criticized continued settlement growth in the West Bank as a violation of several Palestinian rights, including “the right to housing, to a livelihood, and to freedom of movement”.
B’Tselem’s report acknowledged, though, that the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has “improved in several important ways.” Israel had reduced the number of manned checkpoints in the West Bank to 44 by the end of February, for example, down from 63 in 2008.
Eighty-three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces between the end of the Gaza war in January 2009 and April 2010. More than one-third of them were not engaged in hostilities, the group said. That compares with 456 Palestinian deaths in 2008.
During the same period, Palestinian fighters killed three Israeli civilians, compared with 21 in 2008; and four members of Israel’s security forces were killed, as opposed to 10 in 2008. None of B’Tselem’s figures include casualties from the three-week Gaza war, during which more than 1,100 Palestinians were killed along with 10 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians.
B’Tselem was founded in 1989 by a group of Israeli lawyers, academics, journalists and politicians to document human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.
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