21 January 2008
The humanitarian conditions in Gaza exacerbated as Israel imposed further restrictions on movement on it since Thursday 17 January 2008.
The new restrictions practically prevent the entry of any materials to the area; including humanitarian aid, mainly medicines and food.
Loss of life and severe harm are loaming under increasing lack of food, water and power.
Days of continued electricity cuts have disrupted the work in hospitals' operation rooms and put at risk clinics ability to keep vaccines and people to keep food.
The population of Gaza has lived in complete darkness for two days now.
The situation is rapidly worsening, threatening of grave consequences if the international silence continues in the face of such serious indiscriminate, punitive measures against Gaza's population.
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stepped up its restrictions on movement to include a full prohibition on the entry of fuel, food and medicine.
Unlike previous restrictions, the IOF prevented the entry of all the humanitarian assistance materials sent by the United Nations agencies.
Some 800,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza depend on this aid to ensure their subsistence.
IOF has refused to allow UNRWA, the largest UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees, to move humanitarian assistance into Gaza since 18 January 2008; including wheat flour, oil and milk.
IOF's restrictions come after seven years of movement restrictions, and four months after Israel declaring Gaza an 'enemy entity', that left Gaza's economy wrecked and its reserve stores empty.
IOF, which controls all the crossing points in Gaza, permitted limited amounts of basic goods in Gaza.
Therefore, a closure of one or two days sparks a crisis.
The movement restrictions grew in a snowball way; increasing continually in time and scope.
On 12 October 2008, IOF reduced the fuel supplies to Gaza; including the industrial fuel used for generating electricity.
Since then, Gaza saw daily cuts of approximately ten hours per day.
The recent restrictions caused Gaza's only power plant to shut down completely.
Today, people started to have much difficulty finding bread as most bakeries closed their doors.
Under increasing prices of bread and other food items, Gaza's poor, who represent 70% of the population, have been most harmed.
Facts on the ground indicate the extent to which Israel went in its disregard of international humanitarian law and human rights norms.
The collective punishment measures are punitive in character.
Israel's Prime Minister stated that Israel has 'no intention of making [Gazans'] lives easier'.
He added that 'as far as I am concerned, every resident of Gaza can walk because they have no gasoline for their vehicles' (See http://www.
Moreover, the movement restrictions are accompanied by a military campaign which IOF has launched since the start of 2008.
IOF killed seventy-two Palestinians in Gaza during the thirteen incursions inside Gaza and 21 aerial and artillery attacks in the first 21 days of 2008.
With the strongest terms, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the Israeli escalation of its attacks and collective punishment measures against the population of Gaza.
IOF has intentionally restricted Gaza's civilians' access to food, medicine, power.
Its restrictions brought about serious disruption of vital services; including pumping water to households, sanitation, emergency services as well as education materials.
These restrictions violate Gazans' rights, inter alia, to life, food, health, education and an adequate standard of living as enshrined in many human rights instruments.
Among other human rights documents, Israel bears obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; treaties that are binding to Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as stressed by the International Court of Justice.
Israel's obligations become even clearer when it impedes the Palestinian authorities' efforts to provide for these rights.
Al Mezan also highlights that IOF's measures represent a multiple form of collective punishment of civilians who must enjoy the protection of international humanitarian law (IHL).
Those measures are oriented to effect the entire population and not a limited number of persons who may pose threat to Israel's security.
In fact, the policy of closure and restriction has been the cornerstone of Israel's policy towards Gaza for years.
Collective punishment represents a grave breach of IHL, namely Articles 33, 146 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, and are absolutely prohibited.
As such, Al Mezan calls on the international Community to urgently act and prevent the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip; the international community to exert pressure on Israel to end its siege of Gaza, and to refrain from imposing collective punishment measures that harm civilians in the future; the United Nations to condemn the violations of human rights and IHL by Israel in Gaza and ensure Gazan's access to goods necessary for their subsistence and wellbeing; the international community to provide protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); especially in the Gaza Strip; human rights organizations and institutions in Israel and worldwide to take action and press their national governments to exert pressure on Israel to ensure its compliance with its obligations under human rights law and IHL.
Al Mezan asserts that the conditions Gaza lives now represent a serious human crisis that places at risk the life of tens of thousands of innocent civilians because of the lack of food and medicine.
Silence against such a crisis represents compliance.