Irish activists have expressed growing concern about the dire consequences in Gaza due to the closure of the Rafah crossing, at the border with Egypt.
While deploring the violence in Egypt and the appalling behavior of the military regime there, members of Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) have reiterated that the people of Gaza must not be forgotten and abandoned.
“Palestinians in Gaza are fully locked in by this siege, with the opening of their only two border crossings dependent on the whims of Israel at Erez and Egypt at Rafah,” said Zoe Lawlor, a spokesperson for GAI who visited Gaza earlier this year. “The Israeli blockade is being enforced on all sides and the lifeline via the Rafah crossing into Egypt is no longer operational. The Rafah crossing is now almost permanently closed and the military regime in Egypt is refusing to allow people to enter and exit.”
The already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza has become more precarious after the ouster of Mohammed Morsi in July, with the Egyptian authorities destroying many of the tunnels which provide a lifeline to the people of Gaza.
The tunnels are often the only means by which Palestinians in the Strip can access goods, so many of which are not allowed to enter due to the illegal Israeli blockade.
Since July, many Palestinians arriving in Cairo in order to access Gaza through Rafah have been sent back to the countries from which they arrived, and people have been stranded on both sides of the Rafah crossing, denied entry and exit for days.
Prior to the military coup in Egypt, as many as 1,200 people per day crossed legally between Egypt and Gaza. That number fell to 50 after the coup, and last Monday [19 Aug] the crossing was closed completely after an unrelated attack on Egyptian police in Sinai by Egyptian insurgents.
“It really is criminal that the people of Gaza are being collectively punished by the Egyptian authorities and now are effectively completely locked in,” Lawlor said, noting that while the world is looking at Egypt, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating alarmingly.
“Of course, the root cause of this is Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza, which has created a situation whereby the people there are subject to the whims of two different states.”
Lawlor added: “There has been a worrying and sustained campaign in some sections of the Egyptian media and state to demonize the Palestinians in Gaza, even blaming them for attacks on Egyptian forces in the Sinai. This adds to their vulnerability.”
GAI also pointed out that Egypt has banned Gazan fishing boats from its waters and they are routinely attacked by Israel when fishing in their own waters, most recently last Tuesday [20 Aug] when the Israeli navy opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the northern coast. The previous week, Israeli forces arrested three civilians from al-Shati’ refugee camp who were swimming off Beit Lahia shore. To date they have not been released.
Last year the UN issued a report that openly wondered whether Gaza will actually be livable by 2020. Now the people of Gaza are being subjected to further cruelty by the new closures.
GAI calls on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing immediately and to guarantee free passage for Palestinians into and out of Gaza. Further it reiterates the longstanding call for the Irish Government and the EU to demand that Israel abide by international law and end the siege of Gaza.
By Gaza Action Ireland