As the illegal siege on Gaza continues, a new international aid flotilla will be heading to the Gaza Strip in the coming days. The purpose of the flotilla, organized by international peaceful activists, is to end the illegal siege on the Gaza strip imposed by the Israel authorities as a form of collective punishment since June 2007. This siege has caused a humanitarian crisis, and continues to exist despite the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and the request of the international community.

The flotilla is known to carry humanitarian goods, water, food, and medicines, and no weapons. Despite Israel’s claims of easing the blockage, a report published in November 2010 by an international coalition of 22 development, human rights and humanitarian organisations, states that in fact little measures have been taken to lift the export ban, the permission of construction materials into Gaza, allowing Palestinians to leave Gaza, and granted access for UN staff into Gaza. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is alarmed by the reports that Israeli authorities will take measures necessary to block the coming flotilla from reaching Gaza, despite the fact that organizers have clearly stated that the ships are transporting humanitarian aid and not weapons.

Recalling the deadly attack led by Israeli forces on the aid flotilla in May 2010 which resulted in the death of 9 international activists and the wounding of 30 others, FIDH reaffirms Israel’s obligations under international law to protect civilians and abstain from using violence against unarmed passengers of the coming international aid flotilla.

FIDH urges the Israeli authorities to not repeat the tragic incident of attack on the aid flotilla in May 2010, for which the national investigation conducted by Israel has shown lack of transparency and impartiality and resulted in the impunity of those responsible for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

The UN Human Rights Council mission of inquiry into the May 2010 incident has reported that Israel’s actions “constituted grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” when Israeli troops stormed the aid flotilla. The report described Israel’s actions as “reaching an unacceptable level of brutality that cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds”.

FIDH urges Israel to protect civilians on board, to allow the passage of the flotilla, and not permit an assault by military forces of the international aid convoy bringing humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip.

FIDH reaffirms the responsibility of the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure access to humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Gaza strip.

Finally, FIDH announces that one of its members, the Ligue des droits et libertés (Québec, Canada) will have a delegate, Marie-Ève Rancourt, on board one of the Flotilla ships. This delegate will monitor events if they unfold and report to the Ligue on any rights violation.  

* FIDH is a federation of 164 non-governmental human rights organizations operating in more than 100 countries. FIDH has a consultative status before the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe, and observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.