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Amnesty International is deeply concerned that it appears that Israeli armed forces may have used excessive force the morning of May 31, 2010 when entering boats protesting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Israel's military blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel's continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.

Letter to
National Security Advisor Susan Rice
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
President of the United States
I am writing on behalf of Amnesty International USA with deep concern about the killing by Israeli armed forces of nine activists on ships protesting the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

While the Israeli government claims that its forces acted in self-defense, it appears clearly that they have used excessive force. The only way to ascertain exactly what happened in a fully credible and transparent manner is to mount an international investigation. It is therefore imperative that the United States supports an international investigation. Israel's proposed Gaza Commission is lacking transparency and unlikely to ensure accountability over the nine deaths of activists.

The ships in question were reportedly carrying relief supplies to Gaza, which has been under blockade by Israel for the last three years. As a result of the blockade, more than 1.4 million Palestinians are cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty. To highlight the effects of the blockade on the civilians in Gaza, Amnesty International several months ago mounted a major campaign, “Israel’s blockade of Gaza suffocates daily life.”

The blockade is a form of collective punishment in contravention of international law. It does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials. Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza’s people: children, the elderly and the sick.

The Israel cabinet recently announced that the blockade would be eased, allowing more of what it terms "civilian goods" into the impoverished territory where 4 out of 5 people are dependent on international aid. This announcement makes it clear that Israel is not intending to end its collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, but only ease it. This is not enough. Any step that will help reduce the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza is to be welcomed, but Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade.

We urge you to draw public attention to the suffering of civilians in Gaza and to call on Israel to immediately lift the blockade.

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