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Israel's 'collective punishment of Palestinians' condemned by UN expert

Israeli blockade of Gaza amounts to 'serious violations against Palestinians,' special rapporteur says
While Israel no longer has a permanent military presence in Gaza, it continues to exercise control
While Israel no longer has permanent military presence inside Gaza, it continues to exercise control over the territory (AFP/File photo)

A UN human rights expert has called on Israel to immediately end its blockade of Gaza, adding that it amounts to "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people.

Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, called the 13-year blockade a "serious violation against Palestinians" in a statement published on Friday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"The extent of the devastating impact of Israel's collective punishment policy can be most strikingly seen in its ongoing 13-year-old closure of Gaza, which now suffers from a completely collapsed economy, devastated infrastructure, and a barely functioning social service system," Lynk said.

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"These practices entail serious violations against Palestinians, including the right to life, freedom of movement, health, adequate shelter, and an adequate standard of living," he said.

Israel has imposed a debilitating blockade on Gaza since 2007, leaving about 80 percent of the Palestinians in the Strip reliant on international aid.

More than one million people live on $3.50 or less a day. The sea, once a vital source of income for Gaza residents, is subject to ever-changing restrictions on sailing and fishing rights.

Gaza's healthcare system has long been on the verge of collapse, suffering from shortages of drugs and materiel under the Israeli-led blockade, and strained medical facilities following several Israeli military campaigns.

The special rapporteur said Israel's strategy to control the Palestinian population and their movement violated a foundational rule of virtually every modern legal system.

Israel's collective punishment of Gaza

Lynk called on Israel to immediately stop all actions amounting to "collective punishment of the Palestinian people, with millions of innocent harmed daily and nothing achieved but deeper tensions and an atmosphere conducive to further violence".

Israel's closure of Gaza is an "affront to justice and the rule of law," Lynk said.

'Collective punishment has been clearly forbidden under international humanitarian law through Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No exceptions are permitted'

- Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur

"While Israel's justification for imposing the closure on Gaza was to contain Hamas and ensure Israel's security, the actual impact of the closure has been the destruction of Gaza's economy, causing immeasurable suffering to its two million inhabitants," the rapporteur said.

"Collective punishment has been clearly forbidden under international humanitarian law through Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. No exceptions are permitted."

Lynk's report also criticised Israel's policy of punitively demolishing Palestinian family homes.

"Since 1967, Israel has destroyed more than 2,000 Palestinian homes, designed to punish Palestinian families for acts some of their members may have committed, but they themselves did not," he said.

"This practice is in clear violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention," he added.