Ramallah, 05-07-07: Eight Palestinians have been killed during separate Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip today, deepening fears that Israel is planning a larger-scale offensive in Gaza following Hamas‘ recent takeover of the Strip. The aftermath of this takeover has seen the sealing off of Gaza‘s borders by Israel, causing a humanitarian crisis and impending economic meltdown.
Palestinian National Initiative General Secretary, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP said that the fact that Israel continues to give itself the right to attack Gaza almost 2 years after its so-called ‘disengagement‘ from the Strip made a mockery of renewed ‘security‘ talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held last Monday.
Early Thursday morning, 8 men were killed and 11 others wounded when Israeli troops invaded the Central Gaza Strip. While most were shot, the bodies of 2 men were torn to pieces after being hit by an Israeli drone east of the Al Bureij refugee camp.
The killings come in the context of a wider humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip where prolonged border closures have meant that only humanitarian aid is allowed to enter the Strip causing shortages of basic goods and essential medical supplies and provoking steep price rises.
Furthermore, 6,000 Palestinians seeking to return to the Gaza Strip via Rafah have been trapped at the crossing since Israel completely sealed off the crossing on 15 June 2007; 12 have already died. A number of these Palestinians had travelled abroad through the crossing to undergo surgery and require special medical care that is lacking at the crossing point. They have been forced to stay in nearby Egyptian towns and many have run out of money.
The destruction of the Gazan economy through border closures is further exacerbating the already dire situation. A report released yesterday by the Israeli NGO Gisha (Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement) revealed that after 3 weeks of a complete ban on importing commercial goods to Gaza, the industrial sector in Gaza is collapsing: 75% of factories have closed. The shortage of raw materials has paralysed the local industry, and approximately 30,000 factory workers stand to lose their jobs. These factory workers constitute 10% of the workforce in the Gaza Strip, and together they support approximately 210,000 dependents.
While 85% of the residents of Gaza are already dependent on humanitarian aid, Israel‘s closure policy is destroying Gaza‘s business sector and is turning its population into charity dependents.
Dr. Barghouthi condemned these Israeli policies and said that they amount to collective punishment imposed upon 1.4 million people in direct violation of international humanitarian law.