Wednesday, May 20, 2009

british parliamentarians call for end to gaza blockade

British MPs call for end to blockade of Gaza

A group of MPs has called for an immediate end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in a report published today.
A delegation from the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group (BPAPPG) visited Israel, Gaza and the West Bank in the immediate aftermath of “Operation Cast Lead”, to assess the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Territories. Their subsequent findings include a call for crossings into and out of Gaza to be opened and for a rigorous international inquiry into allegations of war crimes. The MPs also note international efforts to prevent the supply of arms into Gaza. The MPs call for this to be supplemented by a prohibition on the sale of arms and military equipment to Israel in response to its own record of attacks on Gaza and elsewhere.

Commenting upon its publication, Chair of the BPAPPG, Richard Burden MP said:

‘Our report details the scale of the devastation and the human cost paid by the people of Palestine – both from the recent conflict in Gaza and the ongoing occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank.

‘The images of our visit remain clear in my mind – an entire village raised to the ground and its many residents now living in tents. Of 1.5 million people imprisoned in their own land and reliant on outside aid for essential food, medical supplies and even the cement they need to rebuild their shattered homes. There has to be accountability for what has happened.

‘The military attacks on Gaza may have now ceased but its people’s suffering continues with a crippling blockade that has been going on for over two years. Common humanity demands we do all we can to bring this to an end.

‘Over the years ordinary Israelis have also suffered from this ongoing conflict. We are convinced that the international community must step up its efforts to achieve the lasting and just peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve.’

The delegation’s report makes nine recommendations:

1. The opening of all the crossing points in and out of Gaza
2. An independent and impartial inquiry into allegations that war crimes and other offences against humanitarian law were committed by both sides during Israel’s attack on Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel, and the holding of all relevant parties to account
3. An international embargo on arms supplies to Israel to accompany the action already being taken by the international community to prevent the supply of arms into Gaza
4. Concerted action to bring about a complete settlement freeze, including a halt to the E1 Plan and a halt to the removal of residency rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem
5. The lifting of the closure regime in the West Bank
6. Conditionality enforced in respect of EU-Israel agreements, with Israel’s trade privileges under those agreements being suspended until it fulfils its own human rights, and other, responsibilities under those agreements
7. Support for the re-forging of internal Palestinian dialogue and reconciliation
8. An inclusive approach to international political engagement with all key stakeholders in the region, to achieve an effective peace process towards a sustainable two-state solution
9. Regular visits to the region for EU and UK politicians to see the situation for themselves and to make appropriate recommendations to their governments.

Over 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Operation Cast Lead, with a further 5,300 injured. Over two hundred schools were damaged or destroyed during the conflict, whilst hospitals and the United Nations’ Gaza City Headquarters were also attacked. The delegation spent three days in the Gaza Strip assessing the damage, meeting with survivors and touring some of the worst affected areas.

The group visited Ashkelon, a town in Southern Israel which has been the victim of rocket attacks. The group also visited the West Bank where they saw evidence of on-going Israeli settlement expansion and the impact of checkpoints and the Separation Wall. The report calls for an end to the growth of settlements and for the international community to pressurise Israel to halt the construction of the barrier.

The delegation of MPs was led by Richard Burden (Labour), Chair of the BPAPPG, and consisted of Ed Davey (Liberal Democrat), Tony Lloyd (Labour), Sarah Teather (Lib Dem), Martin Linton (Labour) and Andy Slaughter (Labour). They visited Ashkelon in southern Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and held a range of meetings with officials, diplomats, organisations and individuals, including Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; Rafiq Husseini (Chief of Staff to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas); the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA); Palestinian business people, medical staff, teachers, academics and politicians; and residents of Ashkelon, Gaza and the West Bank.

The visit was coordinated and accompanied by the Council for Arab British Understanding which acts as the secretariat to the BPAPPG, and sponsored by the Welfare Association.

For further information please contact:
Graham Bambrough
Council for Arab British Understanding
0207 832 1322

Duncan Sinclair
Office of Richard Burden MP
0207 219 2318

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