On Monday 18 March, the UN Human Rights Council receives a devastating report on Gaza, where an independent Commission of Inquiry has found that Israeli soldiers routinely and illegally use lethal force against Palestinian protesters.
The report records 189 deaths and more than 6,100 injuries, many catastrophic and life-changing, caused by live ammunition. "But it should not be forgotten that protests are continuing, and people are still dying," said Mary Lucas, CAFOD's Middle East Country Representative.
Demonstrations began on March 30 last year against the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. For over a decade almost two million people have been trapped in a territory 25 miles long and never more than 7.5 miles wide, where 50 per cent are unemployed, the health system is collapsing and only 4 per cent of the water supply is considered fit to drink.
"Under international law the people of Gaza have the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to protest against their conditions," Lucas continued. "The report found that while not all demonstrators have been peaceful, there is no justification for the use of live bullets against the thousands that were. Israel must change its rules of engagement and make this clear to all its troops."
International law also obliges Israel to ensure the health and welfare of Palestinian people under its control, she added. "That includes the thousands wounded by live fire, who rarely get the treatment they need. It is just one of the many deprivations caused by the blockade."
Britain is a member of the UN Human Rights Council. CAFOD, along with nine other UK organisations, in a joint statement, has urged the government to support the Commission of Inquiry's report and recommendations. The Israeli authorities have failed to conduct the 'independent and transparent investigations' sought by our government.
"Britain should call for the closure of Gaza to be lifted. Until Israel does so, the demonstrations and the deaths of many innocent people are likely to continue," concluded Lucas.
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