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International groups call on Quartet to clarify Palmer report

Sept. 15, 2011 8:26 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 16, 2011 10:32 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A group of international organizations issued a public letter on Thursday urging the Middle East Quartet to clarify that a UN-sponsored report did not declare the blockade on Gaza to be legal.

The Palmer report into Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010, made public on Sept. 1, found the naval blockade by Israel's military to be lawful, but not "the entire closure regime imposed on Gaza," the letter said.

Signed by 19 humanitarian, development, human rights and peace-building organizations, including Amnesty International and Save the Children, the dispatch called on the Quartet to ensure the report's findings are "not misunderstood."

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said the Gaza closure "constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law," the letter noted.

The Palmer report "only focuses on the naval blockade of Gaza and explicitly does not address the legality of the overall closure regime," it said.

The signatories said they "continue to witness the unnecessary daily suffering of the civilian population," as a result of the blockade through their programs in Gaza.

They noted that 54 percent of Gaza's population are food insecure, and exports from Gaza are around one percent pre-2007 levels.

Numbers of Palestinians allowed to exit Gaza via Israeli crossings also remain around one percent pre-2000 levels, the letter added.

International signatories said the Palmer report recommendation that Israel continue to ease the blockade was not enough.

"Israel should be required to comply with its international legal obligations and lift its closure on Gaza fully and immediately," including allowing exports and imports, travel between Gaza and the West Bank, and access to arable land and fishing waters currently off limits, the letter said.
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