Friday, June 09, 2006
This from Amnesty International:
Humanitarian crisis in Occupied Territories by Amnesty International
Humanitarian crisis in Occupied Territories
The humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories has deteriorated sharply since the European Union (EU) and USA stopped funding the newly elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA). UN agencies and aid organizations have warned that, while committed to providing emergency aid, they cannot replace the PA in delivering healthcare, education and other crucial services to 3.5 million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The decision by key donors, notably the EU and USA, to stop funding the PA is having a severe impact. For more than a decade such funding enabled the PA to deliver health, education and other key services to the Palestinian population. However, it is Israel, as the occupying power, that is obliged under international law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinians living under its occupation. In recent months Israel has also been withholding US $60 million a month of import taxes which it collects on behalf of the PA.
Emergency assistance essential to fulfilling fundamental human rights must never be used as a bargaining tool to further political goals. The international community must continue to press the PA to abide by international law and to act to prevent attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians. It must also press Israel to stop using excessive and disproportionate force against the Palestinian population.
During April 2006, Israeli forces fired around 3,000 artillery shells and aircraft missiles into the Gaza Strip in response to the firing by Palestinian armed groups of some 150 mortars into Israel. In the first four months of this year 90 Palestinians, including more than 20 children, were killed by Israeli forces; 17 Israelis, including one child, were killed by Palestinian armed groups.
Israel continues to appropriate large areas of fertile Palestinian land and to restrict the movement of Palestinians within the Occupied Territories, with disastrous consequences for the Palestinian economy. In May, Israel’s newly elected Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, reiterated his electoral pledge to strengthen and expand most of the Israeli settlements established throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.
The ongoing construction by Israel of a 600km fence/wall in the West Bank cuts off Palestinian farmers from their lands and hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and blockades severely curtail Palestinians’ access to their workplaces, schools and hospitals.
AI delegates who visited the areas in April and May witnessed first-hand the extent of the damage of such measures on the Palestinian economy. Tons of agricultural products have gone to waste as farmers are unable to reach their land or transport their produce to market. The result has been increased unemployment and poverty, rising malnutrition and other health problems. The cut in international aid to the PA has made the Palestinian population even more vulnerable.
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