The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on Wednesday said [statement, PDF; press release] that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] must be lifted to prevent further human rights violations. Israel maintains a fence along its border with the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of goods and people through heavily-guarded border-crossings. Valerie Amos [official profile] said that Israel's strict regulation of the border deprives the residents of basic needs and is a violation of international law:
The blockade of Gaza, now entering its sixth year, has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of the 1.6 million Palestinians who reside there. More than 80 per cent of families are dependent on humanitarian aid, and Gaza remains subject to severe restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of people, by land, air and sea. This amounts to a collective punishment of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law.Amos noted that Israel has made improvements in the human rights situation in Gaza, but said that the situation cannot be remedied until the blockade is lifted.
Israel's policy in the Gaza Strip has been a subject of controversy. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in February urged Israel [JURIST report] to change its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank. The report describes the policy that causes separation within Palestinian families since some are trapped inside Israel while their family members are forbidden from entering. Israel was also criticized by HRW for never disclosing its rationale for imposing the restrictions on travel and residency. In January, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill [JURIST report] that imposes harsher penalties on illegal migrants in Israel, as well as on Israelis who help illegal migrants. The bill amends the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954, broadening the law to include not only individuals suspected of terrorism, but all illegal migrants. Last October, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights for the West Bank and Gaza Strip Richard Falk called for better guidelines on the treatment of Palestinian youth [JURIST report] arrested by the Israeli military