Amnesty Int'l slams Gaza blockade, settlements

In annual report, rights group accuses Israel of committing abuses against Palestinians, breaching int'l law.

Itamar settlement hilltop 311 R (photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
Itamar settlement hilltop 311 R
(photo credit: Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters)
Israel is criticized for violating the human rights of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in Amnesty International's yearly report on the state of the world's human rights released on Wednesday.
"Israel maintained its blockade of Gaza, prolonging the humanitarian crisis there, and continued aggressively to expand settlements in the Palestinian West Bank territory it has occupied since 1967," the report posited.
Amnesty accused Israel of "forcing from their homes" Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and slammed the government for demolishing unrecognized villages and homes belonging to Negev Beduin.
The report was particularly critical of Israel's settlement policy, accusing the Jewish State of working in opposition to international law.
"Thousands of Jewish Israelis living in settlements unlawfully established on occupied Palestinian lands received every encouragement to further expand, develop and consolidate the settlements even though these settlements are prohibited under international law," according to Amnesty.
Israel was also indicted in the report for continuing its blockade of the Gaza Strip which, it claimed, continued to "suffocate the local economy and prolong what is a deliberate humanitarian crisis whose heaviest impact is on the most vulnerable – children, the elderly, those needing specialist medical care not available in Gaza."
Amnesty charged that the blockade was in violation of international law and constitutes "nothing less than collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.6 million inhabitants."
The human rights organization was also critical of Israel's handling of demonstrations in the West Bank, accusing the IDF of using excessive force against protesters. Amnesty claimed the government failed to hold accountable soldiers and settlers accused of committing abuses against Palestinians.
Amnesty International detailed both human rights abuses and protest efforts against human rights abuses in 155 counties around the world.
The organization said that the Syrian government's crackdown on peaceful protesters "may have constituted crimes against humanity.