By Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Press Release, 29 June 2015
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli Navy’s interception and seizure of the first vessel of Freedom Flotilla III taking it to Ashdod seaport in Israel. PCHR believes that this attack is aimed to impose the conspiracy of international silence towards crimes committed by Israel against the Gaza Strip’s population, including the illegal closure that has been imposed for the ninth consecutive year.
At 04:00 on Monday, 29 June 2015, the Israeli Navy intercepted a leading vessel of Freedom Flotilla III, Marianne, which raises the Swedish flag and carries 18 solidarity activists representing the international civil society, about 100 nautical miles from Gaza’s shore. Israeli Navy commandos seized control over the vessel, and the solidarity activists were detained and transferred to Ashdod seaport in Israel. Freedom Flotilla III consists of four ships: Marianne, carrying 18 solidarity activists, including Mohammed al-Munsif al-Marzouki, former Tunisian President, and Bassel Ghattas, member of the Israeli Knesset; Juliano II, carrying 12 solidarity activists; Rachel, carrying eight solidarity activists; and Vittorio, carrying nine solidarity activists. A fifth vessel, Agios Nikolaos, joined the Flotilla in Greece.
The act of piracy committed by Israeli occupation forces against solidarity activists who came to the Gaza Strip, unarmed but with their moral strength, is another attempt to silence the voices of the free people of the world who wished to send a message to the whole world that the total siege imposed the Gaza Strip is inhuman, illegal, a man-made disaster and a part of an ongoing war crime against Palestinian civilians.
The illegal Israeli siege, represented in severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods at border crossings, constitutes a serious human rights violation and a form of collective punishment. It has left disastrous impacts on all aspects of life of 1.8 million Palestinians, as 70% of the Gaza Strip’s population lack food security, and they depend on food aids provided by UNRWA and World Food Programme. It has also destroyed the economy of the Gaza Strip and paralyzed major production sectors. As a consequence, the rate of families living below the poverty line has increased to 38.8%, including 21.1% living in extreme poverty. The number of unemployed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has amounted to 195,000, constituting 44% of the labor force. Moreover, the basic infrastructure has deteriorated up to the level of inability to desalinate drinking water and treat wastewater.
In light of the attack on Freedom Flotilla III, PCHR:
– Expresses high appreciation and respect for solidarity activist on Freedom Flotilla III and all free people of the world who have supported our just cause, exposed Israeli violations of human rights, sent their message and spoke out to the whole world that the siege is unjust, illegal and a violation of international humanitarian law.
– Emphasizes that the crime of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip is one of the major crimes that will be raised before the International Criminal Court, especially as the report of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, which will be discussed by the UN Human Rights Council today, explicitly points out the illegal siege crime.
– Calls upon the international community to seriously act to compel Israeli authorities to stop the policies of collective punishment they practice against the Gaza Strip, including the tightened closure of border crossings which has impacted on the economic and social rights of the civilian population.