Press Release: 5 October 2010, New Delhi
Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine
THE ASIA TO GAZA SOLIDARITY CARAVAN
500 civil resisters from 17 Asian countries will join the caravan from India and march through 18 Asian cities of Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey to break the siege of Gaza through the sea route in December 2010
The Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan is being organised by the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine, an alliance of peoples’ organisations, social movements, trade unions, and civil society institutions of Asia. This struggle is broad-based, varied and multi-dimensional. It is humanitarian and for peace, freedom and human dignity. It is against occupation, imperialism, apartheid, Zionism and all forms of discrimination including religious discrimination. Simultaneous press conferences are being held in 5 countries today – India, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and Lebanon – to announce the launch of the Asia to Gaza Caravan. Similar press conferences will be held next week in Syria, Palestine, Malysia, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine extends solidarity to the courageous people of Palestine in their struggle, resistance, and intifada against the Zionist Israeli occupation and affirms its commitment to Palestinian Self-Determination; Ending the Occupation; Equal Rights for All within historic Palestine; the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees; and the Establishment of a Sovereign, Independent and Democratic state of Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital.
The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine commits to build the solidarity of Asian people for the freedom of Palestine, provide materials, resources, and volunteers to support the struggle of the people of Palestine and oppose our own governments’ decisions and actions that give economic, financial, military and diplomatic support to Israel and allow it to behave with impunity.
India Lifeline to Gaza, which is a constituent of the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine will have a conference and a large flag off programme in New Delhi on 2nd December 2010. The Caravan will carry relief material for the people of Gaza. The Asia to Gaza Caravan will cross into Pakistan via the Wagah border where members of the Pakistan Solidarity for Gaza will join the Caravan onwards to Iran. In every country and city that the caravan travels through, public meetings will be organised as more activists and participants join the caravan. We also support the United Palestinian call of July 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to compel Israel to comply with international law; the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); and all other initiatives to end the occupation of Palestine.
TENTATIVE CARAVAN SCHEDULE
01 Dec Participants from East and South East Asia reach New Delhi, India 15-17 Dec Tabriz, Iran to Eskandarun, Turkey
2-3 Dec Flag off from New Delhi
and travel to Wagah border, India-Pakistan Border 18-19 Dec Eskandarun, Turkey to Damascus, Syria
04 Dec Reach Lahore, Pakistan 20-21 Dec Damascus, Syria to Amman Jordan
5-7 Dec Lahore to Karachi/Quetta, Pakistan 22-23 Dec Amman, Jordan to Beirut Lebanon
08 Dec Karachi/Quetta, Pakistan to Zahedan, Iran 24-26 Dec Beirut back to Turkey
9-14 Dec Zahedan, Iran to Tabriz, Iran 26 Dec We Sail for Gaza (Palestine)
The civil resisters have resolved to resist the Israeli sea siege in a peaceful manner and following the example of civil resisters such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela as well as the long tradition of peaceful resistance from all ethical and religious traditions. The civil resisters are willing to be convicted for their peaceful resistance.
India Lifeline to Gaza
This process has been initiated by Indian people’s movements, social movements, trade unions, civil society organisations and multi-faith and ecumenical organisations. In the two months prior to departure of the Asia to Gaza caravan there will be multi-city programmes in solidarity of the people of Gaza and Palestine. Film festivals of Palestinian films and films of resistance, music concerts, photo exhibits, and theatre productions are being organised by the supporters of the people of Gaza and Palestine.
Palestinian Film Festival: Celebrating Cultures of Resistance
A week-long film festival screening Palestinian films and documentaries is being planned across several cities of India in the last week of October (tentatively 23-30 October). Several other initiatives such as solidarity concerts, theatrical performances, photo exhibits, panel discussions and seminars will also be planned in the days leading up to the flag-off of the Caravan.
End the Siege of Gaza • Freedom to Palestine • Boycott Israel
All India Students Association
Ayodhya Ki Awaaz
Bahujan Sewak Sangh
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
Bharat Bachao Andolan
Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)
CPI-ML (New Democracy)
Forum against Oppression of Women
Free Gaza - India
Global Gandhi Forum
Indian Isladhi Movement
India Palestine People’s Solidarity Forum
Indian Fed of Trade Unions
Le Monde Diplomatique
Mahatma Phule-Dr Ambedkar Vichar Manch
Mazdoor Ekta Manch
Muslim Intellectual Forum
Muslim Political Council of India
National Association of Peoples Movements
National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers
New Socialist Initiative
New Trade Union Initiative
Palestine Solidarity Movement
People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Phule-Ambedkar Vichar Manch
Programme against Custodial Torture and Impunity
Progressive Students Union
Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
Sarva Seva Sangh
Solidarity Youth Movement
South Asia Peace Alliance
South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers
Students Islamic Organisation of India
Trade Union Centre of India
Teesra Swadheenta Andolan
All India Majlis-i-Mushawarrat
Anand Swaroop Verma
Brig. Sudhir Sawant
Kalyani Menon-Sen, New Delhi
Pandit Jugal Kishore Shastri
Sheikh Muhammad Hussain
Syed Iftikhar Ahed
Varsha V V
Yawar Ali Qazi
India Lifeline to Gaza
33-D, 3rd Floor
Vijay Mandal Enclave
DDA SFS FLATS
New Delhi, 110016
Phone: 09711178868; 09911599955; 09820897517
Fact Sheet on Siege on Gaza
Israel’s blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European
Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative
Council elections in January 2006. Israeli forces have controlled what is allowed in and out
of Gaza since June 2007. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in
and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of
sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. The blockade has subjected many to
unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment of a
civilian population for exercising its democratic rights. Lifting the blockade, along with a
cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and
Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May
and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli
government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and
ground attacks in early November. Israel has continued and even intensified its occupation
of the West Bank. In 2008, settlement expansion increased by a factor of 38, a further
4,950 Palestinians were arrested – mostly from the West Bank, and checkpoints rose from
521 to 699. Furthermore, since the onset of the peace talks, Israel has killed 546
Palestinians, among them 76 children.
Most of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza
Strip are refugees from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba.
Over half of them still reside in the eight refugee camps in Gaza. They were driven to Gaza
by the Israeli Army in 1948. The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-
Day War in 1967. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the
movement of people. Israel has control over Gaza’s air space and sea coast, and its forces
enter the area at will. Israel intensively polices its long, fenced land border with Gaza, and
uses its navy to prevent access from the sea. Egypt has imposed its own blockade on its
short border with the strip, as it does not recognise Hamas's control over Gaza.
The blockade comprises measures such as restrictions on the goods that can be imported
into Gaza and the closure of border crossings for people, goods and services, sometimes for
days, including cuts in the provision of fuel and electricity. Gaza’s economy is further
severely affected by the reduction of the fishing zone open to Palestinian fishermen and the
establishment of a buffer zone along the border between Gaza and Israel, which reduces the
land available for agriculture and industry. In addition to creating an emergency situation,
the blockade has significantly weakened the capacities of the population and of the health,
water and other public sectors to respond to the emergency created by the military
The blockade prevents Gaza from exporting any goods, putting a crippling squeeze on the
local economy, and restricts imports to a limited amount of basic humanitarian aid. But
there are no specified details of what is and is not banned, except a list of "dual use" items,
such as fertilizers which could be used to make weapons and is therefore prohibited.
Imports are said to be less than a quarter of the level they were December 2005, and the
UN estimates that 60 per cent of people are short of food, with seven out of ten living on
less than $1 a day a nd six in ten having no daily supply of water.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) list of household
items that have been refused entry at various times includes light bulbs, candles, matches,
books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta,
tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, shampoo and conditioner. Many other items - ranging from
cars to fridges to computers - are generally refused entry. Building materials such as
cement, concrete and wood were nearly always refused entry until early 2010, when some
glass, wood, cement and aluminium were allowed in.
Operation Cast Lead
Israel deployed its navy, air force and army in the operation it codenamed “Operation Cast
Lead”. The military operations in the Gaza Strip included two main phases, the air phase
and the air-land phase, and lasted from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. The Israeli
offensive began with a week-long air attack, from 27 December until 3 January 2009. The
air force continued to play an important role in assisting and covering the ground forces
from 3 January to 18 January 2009. The army was responsible for the ground invasion,
which began on 3 January 2009, when ground troops entered Gaza from the north and the
east. The navy was used in part to shell the Gaza coast during the operations. Statistics
about Palestinians who lost their lives during the military operations vary.
Based on extensive field research, non-governmental organizations place the overall
number of persons killed between 1,387 and 1,417. The Gaza authorities report 1,444
fatalities. The Government of Israel provides a figure of 1,166. According to the
Government of Israel, during the military operations there were 4 Israeli fatalities in
southern Israel. In addition, 9 Israeli soldiers were killed inside the Gaza strip.
The Israeli armed forces launched numerous attacks against buildings of the Gaza
authorities. Israeli strikes on the Palestinian Legislative Council building and the Gaza
main prison completely destroyed the two buildings and can no longer be used. The se
attacks constitute deliberate attacks on civilian objects in violation of the rule of customary
international humanitarian law whereby attacks must be strictly limited to military
objectives. On 15 January 2009, the field office of the UNRWA in Gaza City, that offered
shelter to about 600 to 700 civilians and contained a huge fuel depot, came under shelling
with high explosive and white phosphorous munitions. On the same day, the Israeli armed
forces attacked the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City and the adjacent ambulance depot with
white phosphorous shells.
The Humanitarian Crisis
According to UN agencies the blockade has caused the economy "irreversible damage".
Unemployment has soared from 30% in 2007 to 40% in 2008, according to the World
Bank. With aid discounted, 70% of Gazan families live on less than a dollar a day per
The closures have devastated the private sector. Before 2007, up to about 750 trucks of
furniture, food products, textiles and agricultural produce left Gaza each month, worth half
a million US dollars a day. Under the blockade, the only exports allowed have been a small
number of trucks of strawberries and flowers. Even production for local needs has come to
a virtual standstill because raw materials are usually refused entry. Agricultural exports at
almost zero, thousands of tonnes of flowers, fruit and vegetables have been destroyed or
sold at a loss on the local market. Other food production has also been affected. According
to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) $180m of trees, fields, livestock,
greenhouses and nurseries were destroyed during operation Cast Lead. The Palestinian
Authority estimates 15% of agricultural land was destroyed. The closed borders have been
a major obstacle to reconstruction, with fertilizer, livestock, seedlings and agricultural
equipment in short supply.
Before the blockade, 3,900 industrial premises were operating, employing 35,000 people -
by June 2008, only 90 were still functioning, employing only 860, according to the
Palestinian Trade Centre. Even before operation Cast Lead, all factories making
construction materials had shut down (13 making tiles, 30 concrete, 145 marble and 250
making bricks), and the building of roads, water and sanitation infrastructure, medical
facilities, schools and housing was on hold. During the truce, some trucks of cement and
gravel began to enter Gaza, but the volume was well below the need, and the flow stopped
as the truce fell apart.
Restrictions on construction materials, particularly cement, and spare parts for machinery,
have had a big impact on projects ranging from water treatment to grave digging.
Reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure destroyed in the 2009 Israeli operations in
Gaza has been virtually impossible. According to the UN, restrictions on cement have
made the reconstruction of 12,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed in Israeli
military operations "impossible". It has not been able to build schools for 15,000 new
Banks, suffering from Israeli restrictions on the transfer of banknotes into the territory were
forced to close on 4 December 2008 due to unavailability of cash money. The World Bank
has warned that Gaza’s banking system could collapse if these restrictions continue. All
cash for work programmes were stopped and on 19 November 2008 UNRWA had to
suspend its cash assistance programme to the most needy.
UNRWA also ceased production of textbooks because there is no paper, ink or glue in
Gaza. This will affect 200,000 students returning to school in 2009.
Food: The two main food providers in Gaza are the UNRWA and the World Food
Programme (WFP). According to the UNRWA, 80% of Gazan households rely on some
kind of food aid. It provides food aid for 7.5 lakh people. Its food distribution has been
suspended several times since June 2007 as a result of border closures or fuel shortages.
UNRWA rations provide about two-thirds of dietary needs, and so need to be
supplemented by dairy products, meat, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. But with the
Palestinian Bureau of Statistics estimating unemployment at 38.6% in early 2010, most
Gazans cannot afford the basics, even if they are physically available. According to a FAO
report 61% of Gazans are "food insecure". A UN survey in 2008 found more than half
Gaza's households had sold their disposable assets and were relying on credit to buy food,
three-quarters of Gazans were buying less food than in the past, and almost all were eating
less fresh fruit, vegetables and animal protein to save money. The Israeli military operation
in December and January 2009 disrupted food aid transfer and distribution significantly.
According to the World Health Organization, one third of children under five and
women of childbearing age are anaemic.
Fuel and Electricity: In September 2007, the Israeli government declared the Strip a
"hostile entity" and began cutting fuel imports. Vehicle fuel enters from Egypt through the
tunnels. According to information complied by O xfam, no petrol or diesel for vehicles has
been allowed in from Israel since November 2008, except for fuel for UN cars and five
other shipments in three years. The amount of cooking gas allowed in has generally
fluctuated between about a third and a half of requirements.
Gaza's electricity supply is made up of 144MW from Israel, 17MW from Egypt and the rest
from an EU-run power plant in Gaza which can generate up to 80MW. The power plant's
fuel is usually brought in through the main fuel entry point, the Nahal Oz crossing. The
plant has shut down completely several times after running out of fuel because the crossing
was closed. It was out of fuel for most of the Israeli operation in January 2009, leaving
two-thirds of Gazans without power at the height of the crisis. Since early 2008, the power
plant has received enough fuel to operate at only about two-thirds of its capacity - in line
with an Israeli Supreme Court ruling which set a minimum amount of fuel that Israel must
allow into Gaza.
Figures monit ored by international agencies show fuel deliveries dropped even below these
minimums at several points in the first half of 2008. In late 2009, the responsibility for
funding the fuel was transferred from the EU to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority -
since then the amount of fuel supplied has declined. In April and May 2010, fuel supply
fluctuated, with the plant able to operate at between 20 and 50% of its capacity. Power cuts
remain frequent. According to Oxfam Report, in April 2010 houses across Gaza went
without power for 35-60 hours a week.
Water and Sewage : The blockade has taken its toll on Gaza's water and sewage network.
Intermittent power supplies have made pumps reliant on generators, which in turn have
lacked spare parts and fuel. According to the WHO, Operation Cast Lead worsened an
already bad situation. Before the operation, Gazans had only half the water they needed
according to international standards, and 80% of water supplied did not meet WHO
drinking standards. At the height of the January fighting, half of Gaza's population had
no access to piped water. Gaza's sewage treatment body estimates that at least 50m litres of
raw or poorly-treated sewage is released into the sea daily. Some of Gaza's sewage is stored
in huge lagoons, one of which burst in 2007 causing at least five deaths.
Medical Aid: The blockade has resulted in "dire state" of much of Gaza's medical
equipment, with delays in approval of machines and spare parts, and engineers denied
access to fit them. The medical system has also struggled with lack of spare parts and, at
times, fuel for back-up generators, and lack of building work because of the shortage of
materials. According to the WHO 15 -30% of essential drugs were out of stock in 2009.
Before Operation Cast Lead, Gaza had only 133 hospital beds per lakh of people,
compared to 583 in Israel. Six hospitals suffered severe damages. Gaza is simply not
equipped to treat most severe cases. According to Israeli government figures, 10,544
patients and their companions le ft the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel in 2009.
But according to the WHO, permission for 21% of patients were denied or delayed during
2009 while waiting for referrals to Israel. The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been closed
since June 2007, although special medical cases are sporadically allowed to pass through it.
Compiled by the Secretariat of New Trade Union Initiative
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