Photo: AFP
Tutu in Beit Hanoun
Photo: AFP

UN envoy Tutu calls Gaza blockade illegal

South African Archbishop expressed sympathy towards Sderot residents, but maintains that Israel is violating human rights

UN Envoy Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Wednesday called the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip illegal and urged Palestinian militants to halt cross-border rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled territory.


Tutu said the blockade was "a siege" and a "gross violation to human rights", echoing rights groups which accuse Israel of collective punishment. Former US President Jimmy Carter last month referred to the blockade as an atrocity.


While visiting the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Tutu said he was also sympathetic towards "the people of Sderot suffering from the Qassam rockets, we care about them too,” a reference to a southern Israeli town frequently targeted by Gaza militants.


The South African cleric, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 over his non-violent struggle against apartheid, heads a UN fact-finding commission investigating the deaths of 19 Palestinians in a 2006 Israeli artillery attack.


Israel has said a technical problem caused shells to mistakenly hit two homes in an area used by militants to fire rockets at the Jewish state.


The investigative team will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Israel, which regards the group as biased against it, denied Tutu a visa, forcing him to cross into the Gaza Strip through Egypt.


Israel tightened its restrictions at the Gaza border crossings after Hamas took over the territory last June.


פרסום ראשון: 05.28.08, 17:05
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