U.N. human rights chief: End Gaza blockade

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The top U.N. human rights official called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza.

“By function of this blockade, 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months," Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement Tuesday. "This is in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must end now.”

Pillay called on Israel to facilitate the entrance into Gaza of humanitarian goods, including food, medical supplies and fuel, as well as to allow civilians involved in medical, religious and educational fields to pass through the border crossings.

Israel closed the border crossings two weeks ago in response to a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza — including Kassam rockets and longer-range Grad rockets — in violation of a five-month truce that is set to end next month. The barrage came after soldiers entered Gaza to blow up a tunnel that intelligence services said was to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

More than 100 rockets have been shot at Israel from Gaza during that time.

On Monday, Israel allowed 33 trucks full of supplies to cross into Gaza.

Pillay appealed for a complete cessation of Israeli incursions and airstrikes, and of rocket fire by Palestinian groups.

“Only a full lifting of the blockade followed by a strong humanitarian response will be adequate to relieve the massive humanitarian suffering evident in Gaza today,” she said.

"It is shocking to read the High Commissioner’s utterly shortsighted press release regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Most disturbing is the way she casually refers to Palestinian aggression in the last sentence of her statement, as almost an afterthought. Unfortunately, Israel does not have the option of being so casual in its response to rocket and mortar attacks on its civilians, attacks which violate the most fundamental right of all, the right to life," read a statement released by Israel’s Ministery of Foreign Affairs. "It is disappointing to see the High Commissioner fall victim to Hamas’cynical manipulation of the media, and reprint blatant misinformation in herpress release."

The release continues, "Rather than engaging in the political game being promoted by the Palestinians, Israel expects the High Commissioner to investigate the facts before issuing one-sided statements about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and to begin by forcefully condemning the perpetrators of terror."
 

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