The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Richard Falk on Friday called on Israel [statement] to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder]. The blockade, which restricts the flow of goods and people into the region through heavily-guarded border-crossings, has been devastating for the 1.75 million Palestinians living in the region. Falk stated [press release] that Israel should lift the blockade "entirely and immediately," calling it "a deliberate policy of collective punishment which is legally indefensible and morally reprehensible." The announcement followed Israel's approval of the delivery of $100 million in building materials for 1,200 homes and 18 schools for projects in Gaza run by the UN. Falk also commented on the public health situation in the region, stating that Gaza's health ministry has reported that the region is running desperately short on medical supplies and equipment. He urged Israel to act within its obligation under international law to maintain public order and civil life, including the delivery of health care.
Israel's policy in the Gaza Strip has been a subject of controversy. In December 2012, Falk called on Israel [JURIST report] to fully implement and continue to support the recent conflict-ending ceasefire agreement with Palestinians in Gaza. Israel was also urged [JURIST report] to end the blockade in June of that year. In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] designated Falk as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 [official website]. In June 2010, Israel agreed [JURIST report] to ease the blockade to allow access to more construction materials [Haaretz report] to repair damage from the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive].