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The Israeli High Court Permits Collective Punishment Measures against Civilians in Gaza

03-12-2007 00:00

On Friday 30 November 2007, the Israeli High Court declined to intervene in the Israeli government's decision to reduce fuel supplies to Gaza; thus rendering such reduction legal.
Four days after the Court's ruling, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has worsened and became at the verge of an outrageous disaster.
The Court's interim decision prohibited the government from executing intended reduction of electricity supply to Gaza for at least two weeks; during which the Court will consider clarifications that should satisfy it as to the way in which the reduction of electricity will not harm civilians.
The ruling comes in response to a petition submitted by ten human rights organizations; including Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.
The petitioners requested the Court to issue an injunction prohibiting the government from cutting off fuel and electricity on the grounds that such measures represent collective punishment of civilians.
The Israeli military informed the Court and petitioners that it would start the electricity cuts on 2 December 2007 and, at the same time, gradually increase the cutting of fuel supply.
The Court considered the petition on Thursday, 29 November 2007.
It permitted the fuel cuts but prevented electricity cuts until further clarifications are provided by the military.
This decision has affected civilian life in Gaza Strip almost immediately.
It jeopardizes civilians' life; especially if accompanied with reducing electricity supply that will disturb the working of facilities that are indispensable for their life and wellbeing.
The reduction of fuel supply has already impacted Gazans' movement within Gaza.
On Monday 3 December 2007 Al Mezan Center monitored the start of a transportation crisis in Gaza's streets.
People face difficulty reaching their workplaces, schools, universities and hospitals because of the lack of diesel and benzene.
The reduction of fuel did not take into account the needs of public and private transportation, which the Israeli army does not qualify as a minimum humanitarian need.
Therefore, thousands of workers in transportation sector have lost their work.
At the same time, they are not able to transport medical, education and other personnel to their work, which threatens the working of the medical and other essential facilities.
According to Al Mezan's documentation, Israel started reducing fuel supply into Gaza Strip gradually in the beginning of October 2007.
At first, it reduced the fuel amount by more than half.
Israel then announced its intention to further reduce the amount by 20% in comparison with the average supply after June 2006, which reached 450,000 liters of diesel per day.
Prior to June 2006, Gaza used to purchase 700,000 liters of diesel for daily consumption.
On the two days after the Court's ruling, the amount has been reduced to 90,000 liters on 29 and 30 December 2007; representing about 14% of average levels of diesel supply.
Diesel is particularly essential for the transportation sector and power generators, which are heavily used, particularly at hospitals and clinics, to compensate the shortage of electricity.
AL Mezan Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned by the Court's ruling, which breaches International Humanitarian Law (IHL), particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Convention prohibits collective punishment of civilians and all conducts that target or disrupt the functioning of facilities indispensable for their life and wellbeing.
Israel is under an obligation to facilitate the proper working of institutions devoted for caring for the population's wellbeing.
While the Court's ruling disregards binding rules of IHL, AL Mezan views that it provides a legal cover for collective punishment of civilians, which served only to exacerbate the suffering of civilians and the deterioration of their humanitarian conditions in Gaza Strip.
AL Mezan Center expresses its strong condemnation of Israel's cuts of fuel.
It also deplores the Court ruling that allowed such illegal conduct.
The Center expresses its deep concern about the possibility that the Court will permit electricity cuts in the soon future, which may also allow for further reductions of food and medicines supply.
Al Mezan therefore calls upon the international community to uphold its legal and moral obligations vis-à-vis the civilian population in Gaza and intervene to lift the illegal siege, and prevent the punishment measures imposed by Israel on Gaza.
These measures have brought about grave consequences on civilians life and their humanitarian conditions and must stop.
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