By John Dugard
(John Dugard is special rapporteur to the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in occupied Palestinian territory)
"In August last year Israel withdrew its settlers and armed forces from Gaza, claiming that this brought to an end 38 years of military occupation. Of course, it did nothing of the sort. Israel retained power over Gaza by controlling its air space, sea space and external borders. Sporadic shelling continued, as did the targeted assassination of militants. Despite this, there was at least an appearance of disengagement, which Israel could claim as a major step towards the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In July, international attention was diverted from Gaza by Israel's attack on Hizbollah's bases in Lebanon. Sadly, despite the ending of these hostilities, Israel's war in Gaza has disappeared from the radar of international concern. Yet it is as important as the conflict in Lebanon. It highlights the intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and reveals, yet again, the brutality of Israel's occupation.
Poverty in Gaza stands at 75 per cent. Food prices have inflated and sugar, dairy products and milk are low as commercial supplies from Israel are limited. Fish is no longer available as a result of Israel's sea blockade.
In short, the people of Gaza have been subjected to collective punishment in clear violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. For what? Surely not for sporadic Qassam rocket fire and the capture of Cpl Shalit? Instead, it seems the people of Gaza are being punished for having elected a Hamas government earlier this year.
Regime change, rather than security, probably explains Israel's punishment of Gaza. Whatever the reason, Gaza deserves more attention from the international community."