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Break the Silence Against the Siege of Gaza

November 19, 2008

Yesterday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. "By function of this blockade, 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months. This is in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must end now ," she said.

"Israel′s latest tightening of its blockade has made an already dire humanitarian situation markedly worse. This is nothing short of collective punishment on Gaza′s civilian population and it must stop immediately" said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International′s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Israel has continued its stranglehold on Gaza, blocking the passage of food and basic medical supplies, electricity and fuel. The past two weeks has seen an increasing blockade. Last Thursday (November 13) the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), the main UN aid agency which provides humanitarian assistance to close to one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, announced that its supplies had run out. (Amnesty International Press Release November 14, 2008).

In a recent extensive report by the Red Cross, the ongoing blockade over the past year has resulted in a shift of diet that is alarmingly deficient in iron, Vitamin A and D. The report says restrictions to all major sectors of the Gaza economy has caused a "progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70 per cent of Gaza′s population". The report reveals a population that is becoming increasingly impoverished and malnourished.
Prior to this report, studies have already shown that over 70 per cent of infants are anemic and that more than 10 per cent of infants have stunted growth.

Unstable medical supplies and lack of fuel have disrupted medical equipment such as incubators, dialysis equipment and heart monitors. There is a shortage of many critical medications and essential medical equipment. Many critically ill patients, including babies with life-threatening congenital heart disease, have been denied access to treatment outside of Gaza for "security reasons". As well, on October 8, 2008 the Israeli authorities refused permission to enter Gaza to an Israeli medical team, who were to carry out operations and medical consultations and provide training on trauma. (Amnesty International).

A group of one hundred health professionals in Canada have signed letters in August 2006 and December 2007, calling on the government of Canada to raise its voice to join those who are demanding an end to the siege of Gaza by Israel. Recently on October 27th, 2008, five of these Canadian health professionals were barred from attending a conference on mental health in Gaza sponsored by the highly reputed Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and co-sponsored by the World Health Organization. Dr. Federico Allodi, Dr. Jim Deutsch, Judith Deutsch, Dr. Mark Etkin and Dr. Sam Masri were all scheduled to participate in the conference aptly titled: Walls vs. Bridges, aimed to better understand the mental health of especially children in Gaza subjected to daily violence, humiliation and fear. These health professionals were part of a group of over 100 international participants who were denied access to Gaza.

We once again demand that our government condemn this morally reprehensible tool of siege and blockade that increases the suffering of the people of Gaza and which is in blatant contravention of international law. It does nothing to achieve peace and justice in the region and is destroying a people and a whole new future generation. We demand our government and the international community break the silence against the siege of Gaza.

For The Health Professionals Against the Siege of Gaza

For more information contact:
Reem Abdul-Qadi
Health Professionals Against the Siege of Gaza

Judith Deutsch
Health Professionals Against the Siege of Gaza

Dr. Miriam Garfinkle
Health Professionals Against the Siege of Gaza

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