Sarah Leah Whitson Image Credit: NASSER NAJJAR/Gulf News

Gaza: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to help end the siege of Gaza.

Ending the siege would enable people to live normal lives again and facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial goods into the devastated Strip, it said in its latest report.

At a news conference on Thursday, Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW executive director, Middle East and North Africa division, called on the US to stop selling bulldozers to Israel, specifically the Caterpillar D-9 model which is designed for military purposes.

The report also pointed out the US has provided about $2.77 billion (Dh10.17 billion) in military aid to Israel during 2009, which played a role in the invasion of Gaza.

"The report documents the Israeli destruction of property illegally during the 2009 war on Gaza and says the infrastructure is still in ruins because of the blockade," said Bill Van Aisagld, a researcher with HRW.

In its report, the HRW documented the destruction of 189 buildings, which left 971 people homeless. The cases documented in the report are only about five per cent of the total destruction caused by the invasion.

In a brief interview with Gulf News Sarah Leah Whitson answered a few questions. The following are excerpts:

GULF NEWS: How does Israel and Hamas react to your recommendations and reports?

WHITSON: We believe most countries don't like our points of view. We sit with officials from both sides — Hamas and Israel. What we consider is to see human rights are respected.

What do you think must happen now, a year and a half after the invasion of Gaza? And what is your role in that?

I think many things must happen, especially in rebuilding the Gaza Strip after the large amount of destruction. The way people are living in Gaza is horrible and tough. Our main goal is to be critical of the infringement of human rights. We aren't a government that can stop anyone by force. Our main duty is to supervise and document the offences against human rights."

What should the Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah and the Israeli state do with your report?

We believe that we documented and put our recommendations and conclusions to prevent any future harm to human rights. According to our reports, the siege on Gaza is controlling every single field of Palestinians' lives. We heard and saw a lot of people creating alternatives like using pebble and mud for building. This shows how the Gazans want to live a peaceful lives and how creative they are. But the borders must be opened and the goods have to enter."

Do you think it is time the siege on Gaza was lifted? To what extent would this help the residents?