UK and world protests call for end to Gaza blockade

By staff writers
January 28, 2008

Tens of thousands of protestors, including demonstrators in five cities across the UK, joined an international day of action on Saturday 26 January in support of the 1.5 million people blockaded in Gaza by Israeli military action.

Glasgow, Brighton, Swansea and Sheffield were sites for vigils and marches, in addition to Downing Street in the capital. Lighting, food, medicine and water have been severely restricted in Gaza since the recent incursions, and protestors marked the worsening situation symbolically.

Gazans defied the blockade last week by toppling a border fence and pouring into Egypt to seek supplies. However humanitarian agencies say vital public services (medical care, electricity, water supply and sewage treatment) remain severely crippled by Israeli sanctions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, repeating an assurance made last week, told Palestinian leaders on Sunday 27 January 2008 that he would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop.

But Palestinian health officials and international relief workers say Gaza is already in crisis. They say shortages of some items, particularly medicines, have become more acute in Gaza, since the border breach prompted Israel to halt even the limited shipments it had been allowing.

In Britain, politicians, actors, writers, journalists and other public figures signed a letter of protest sent to The Guardian newspaper and other media. It read:

"We refuse to remain silent on the brutal collective punishment being inflicted upon the Palestinian population, which has reached even more horrific levels following Israel's cutting of fuel supplies. The 1.5 million residents of Gaza, who were already suffering severe shortages of fuel, food and medicine, are facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the middle of winter, without heat and lighting.

"The only power station in Gaza is needed to provide electricity to deliver clean water and manage sewage. Hospitals are warning that patients' lives are at stake, with electricity needed to run essential machinery such as incubators, dialysis machines, and heart monitors, and essential surgery that will have to be cancelled.

"Article 33 of the fourth Geneva convention states that "no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed". The British government, as a signatory to the convention, has a responsibility to ensure that it is upheld. We urge the government immediately to condemn the collective punishment of the Gazan population and ensure that the Israeli government's violations of the fourth Geneva convention end."

Signatories included: Miriam Margolyes, Maxine Peake, Dr Karma Nabulsi, Tony Benn, Victoria Brittain, Lord David Steel, Bella Freud, Samuel West, Juliet Stevenson, Simon McBurney, John Keane, Charles Glass, Alexei Sayle, Kika Markham and Corin Redgrave.

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