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Gazans Used as ‘Political Pawns’: Rights Groups | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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JERUSALEM (AFP) – Two human rights groups said on Wednesday that Israel, Egypt, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority had all violated the rights of Gaza residents by preventing them from crossing into Egypt.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Gisha: Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement said in a joint statement that all four “are preventing passage between Gaza and Egypt for political reasons” while “pointing an accusatory finger at the others.”

They said that while Israel bears the lion’s share of the blame, “all parties involved are contributing to the systematic violation of the rights of Gaza residents” by keeping the Palestinian enclave’s Rafah crossing with Egypt closed.

The Rafah crossing is the only one that bypasses Israel, which has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power in the impoverished and overcrowded Palestinian enclave in June 2007.

Israel “maintains substantial and indirect control over Rafah crossing,” the rights groups said.

Egypt is keeping Rafah closed “due to pressure from Israel and other parties and also to advance its own agenda not to recognise the Hamas government (in Gaza) and prevent ties between Hamas and opposition elements in Egyptian society,” they said.

Hamas prevents the Palestinian Authority presidential guard from operating Rafah, while the PA refuses to compromise with Hamas over control of the crossing, the statement said.

“All the parties concerned bear an obligation to rise above their narrow interests and to respect the rights of 1.5 million people being used as pawns in political negotiations,” the groups said.