Most Palestinian, regional and international bodies have marked the 15th anniversary of the stifling Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – assuming that the blockade started in the middle of June 2007 -, when the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, started ruling the coastal enclave.
However, the Israeli blockade actually started when the Central Elections Commission released the final results of the Palestinian parliamentary elections on Sunday, 29 January 2006, and announced that Hamas’ Change and Reform had achieved an overwhelming majority of the parliamentary seats.
Following this announcement, most Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Hamas’ rival, Israel, Arab States and the international community immediately decided to boycott Hamas, which was freely elected to take up control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
All the countries stopped paying their shares of the donations to the PA budget, Israel suspended transfers of taxes that it collects on behalf of the PA, to the PA budget and Fatah evacuated the PA ministries and other institutions, including hospitals and schools, leaving very few public servants to offer services to the public.
Under a strict Israel and Egyptian, internationally-backed ground, sea and air blockade, Gaza became the largest open-air prison for two million people in the world. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.
Israel has restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip, causing very severe humanitarian conditions, denying youth of education opportunities abroad and preventing patients from receiving proper healthcare in the well-equipped Palestinian hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as in Israel and Egypt. Later on, the blockade was slightly eased, but the restrictions have remained in place.
Under the tight Israeli-Egyptian siege, about 56 per cent of Gaza residents began suffering from poverty, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said in 2020, and youth unemployment stood at 63 per cent.
Local, regional and international human rights groups, as well as official international bodies, including all the UN institutions, have said the Israeli blockade contravenes Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment that prevents the realisation of a broad range of human rights.
While under the blockade, the Gaza Strip has come under several Israeli military offensives and heavy bombardments that paralysed most of the institutions which offer basic services to the people, including hospitals and schools. During these military campaigns, Israel has killed about 4,000 Palestinians and wounded over 20,000 others, including children, women and the elderly.
Tens of whole families were wiped out of the civil record when the Israeli occupation bombed their homes without pre-warning, leaving all family members smashed under the rubble of their homes.On 8 January 2009, in the middle of heavy Israeli bombardment of the blockaded Gaza Strip, the UN Security Council held a meeting, issued and adopted its resolution number 1,860 which expressed “grave concern” at the situation in Gaza and “heavy civilian casualties”.
It also expressed “grave concern at the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, emphasising the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings … calling for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire.” It also called for “unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical treatment.”
The UN Security Council resolution also called for ensuring “the sustained re-opening of the crossing points” and called for “renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders.”
Early this week, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called for the complete removal of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, recalling 2009 UNSC resolution 1,860. “Today is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the blockade in the Gaza Strip,” Dujarric said, adding: “Due to poverty, high unemployment and other factors caused by the blockade, about 80 per cent of Gaza’s population depends on humanitarian aid.”
Dujarric pointed out to the lack of international support for the besieged Gaza Strip, stating that this has resulted in severe shortages of basic needs for Gaza residents living under the harsh blockade. “This year, $510 million is needed to provide food, water, sanitation and health care for 1.6 million people, and we now have only 25 per cent of that,” Dujarric said.
It has been now 13 years since the UNSC adopted the resolution on stopping the Israeli offensive on Gaza, and ending the siege to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings; however, nothing has changed. Even the international, along with the UNRWA’s, support for Gaza has dramatically decreased despite what was stipulated by the resolution – that the humanitarian support for Gaza should increase.
The question is why has the UNSC not used its power, enshrined in its Charter, to implement the resolution? According to the UN Charter, “by signing and ratifying the Charter, countries agreed to be legally bound by resolutions passed by UN bodies such as the General Assembly and the Security Council. Thus, UN resolutions are legally binding on UN Member States.”
Meanwhile, the UNSC, under Chapter VII, “can take measures to enforce its decisions and ensure that mandates are fulfilled.” It can use several tools to carry out its mission. “It can impose economic sanctions or order an arms embargo.” The UNSC might authorise the UN member states “to use ‘all necessary means,’ including collective military action, to see that its decisions are carried out.”
Yet, the UNSC has not used any of its tools to ensure its resolution related to ending the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza has been implemented. It is easy to impose sanctions on Israel, order arms embargo or take military action against it.
Unfortunately, such measures have been taken against states and entities not far from Israel. Instead of this, many of the UNSC member states have doubled their support for Israel, despite maintaining its blockade on Gaza and pounding Gaza with heavy bombardment campaigns. At the same time, they increased their support for Israel and obliged neighbouring countries to forge ties with it.
This was not the first or the last resolution the UNSC adopted in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the resolution demanded immediate action against Israel, but Israel continues its flagrant violations against the Palestinians due to feeling safe and receiving support from most UNSC member states.
In light of such a biased and unfair international community, the Palestinians will continue enduring more suffering and pain. When the UNSC starts respecting itself and its resolutions, and when it becomes fair, the suffering and pain of the Palestinians will end.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.