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MADRE Mobilizes Support for Palestinian Children in Gaza and Calls for Immediate End to Israeli Invasion

July 7, 2006–New York–MADRE, an international women's human rights organization, issued a statement today calling for an immediate end to the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. MADRE is also mobilizing support to protect Palestinian children from the trauma of military violence and the impact of the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The statement, "Protect Palestinian and Israeli Civilians: MADRE Calls for Immediate Halt to Israeli Invasion of Gaza, " reads:

MADRE joins the call of Israeli, Palestinian, and international human rights organizations for an immediate end to the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip and for the protection of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.

Israel says that its military assault is aimed at securing the release of a captured Israeli soldier and stopping the barrage of missiles into its territory. Israel has a right, indeed, a responsibility, to protect its population from armed attack. Activists from Hamas' military wing have recently fired rockets into Israeli population centers. These attacks on civilians constitute war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The same Convention criminalizes Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian families have faced a growing humanitarian crisis since Israel invaded the area on June 27. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that Israel's objective is to "apply pressure" to the civilian population of Gaza. The deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure is a form of collective punishment that violates the Hague Convention, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a war crime.

Israel destroyed Gaza's only power plant, leaving 1.5 million people without electricity or running water. In Gaza's two main hospitals, infant incubators, dialysis, and oxygen machines stopped running. The lack of sanitation threatens a public health crisis as sewage builds up in crowded streets, which are the only play areas for children in one of the world's poorest and most densely-populated areas. Ongoing fly-by raids by Israeli fighter pilots are causing super-sonic booms that terrorize the population. Children, in particular, are psychologically harmed by these frightening around-the-clock raids, which have produced panic attacks, sleep disturbances, bedwetting and other detrimental effects amongst tens of thousands of children. These raids are a clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory (Note: The US has signed, but not ratified, this convention).

Israeli war planes have destroyed Gaza's three main bridges, on which people depend for the transport of food, medicine, and other necessities. Israeli crack-downs on the movement of goods in Gaza have caused intermittent food shortages since 2000. Even before the current invasion, half of Palestinian families were only eating one meal a day. The destruction of the bridges will further endanger the food security of a population made vulnerable by years of Israeli occupation policies. Israeli war crimes are being committed with weapons supplied by the United States, including fighter planes manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The use of US-made weapons to target civilians violates the US Arms Export Control Act as well as the Geneva Conventions.

MADRE calls on Israel to recognize Palestinian civilians as "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions and to meet its international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants in Gaza.

MADRE endorses the editorial position of Israel's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz (June 30, 2006), in calling on Israel to "free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations, " as the only alternative to ongoing and escalating violence.

MADRE is currently raising funds to provide trauma counseling and emergency health services to Palestinian children in Gaza.