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PCHR: A Warning from Gaza

PCHR
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Press Release
Date: 25 October 2007

Israeli Occupation Authorities Seek to Impose More Measures of Collective Punishment on the Palestinian People, and PCHR Warns of Further Deterioration to Humanitarian Conditions in the Gaza Strip

PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, UN bodies and all international humanitarian organizations to take immediate effective measures to force Israeli occupation authorities to abstain from implementing the recommendations of the special security committee, established by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, to decrease the supplies of electricity, fuels and basic goods for the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls also for pressuring the occupation authorities to allow the immediately flow of foodstuffs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip. PCHR further warns the international community of the repercussions of the policy of collective punishment practiced by Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian civilian population, including the closure of border crossings and restrictions imposed on importation and exportation.

On Tuesday evening, the Israeli Ministry of Defense established a special security committee headed by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’ei to consider the issue of rockets launched at the Israeli territory from the northern Gaza Strip. The committee concluded a number of recommendations to the Israeli Minister of Defense to be implemented from Thursday, 25 October 2007. The Minister of Defense declared on Thursday afternoon his approval of such recommendations, which include a gradual decrease in the supplies of electricity, fuels and goods imported by the Gaza Strip from Israel and the closure of border crossings of the Gaza Strip for unlimited periods, if Israel came under fire.[1] It is worth noting that the Gaza Strip consumes nearly 200 megawatts of electricity: 120 megawatts bought from Israel, 17 megawatts bought from Egypt and 65 megawatts generated by the Gaza Electricity Generation Plant. The actual need of the Gaza Strip is more than 220 megawatts. The Gaza Strip relies completely on fuels imported from Israel. It consumes 6,000 tons of domestic gas, 2 millions liters of benzene and 8 millions liters of gasoline. The Gaza Electricity Generation needs at least 270,000 liters of gasoline daily to be operated.[2]

PCHR is following up with utmost concern the deterioration to the economic and social conditions resulted from the total siege imposed by Israeli occupation authorities on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially the Gaza Strip. PCHR is worried from further deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinian civilian population if the recommendations of the security committee were implemented, as at least 60% of the Palestinian civilian population would be deprived of electricity supplies and many civilian facilities that provide vital services would stop providing services to the civilian population due to the lack of electricity supplies.

The proposed measures of collective punishment are part of a policy of economic, political and social stranglehold adopted by Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Those authorities have escalated arbitrary measures since Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip on 15 June 2007. In this context, they have closed border crossings of the Gaza Strip, but they later partially reopened Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) and Sofa crossings to allow limited amounts of basic goods and humanitarian aids provided to the population. On 19 September 2007, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip as “an enemy entity” and accordingly measures of collective punishment against Gaza escalated. Since that time, IOF have limited the goods exported to the Gaza Strip to only 9 basic materials. As a consequence, local markets ran out of many goods, which caused a sharp increase in prices, which mounted to 500% for some goods. Israeli occupation forces have banned the flow of some medicines, furniture, electrical appliances, cows and cigarettes into the Gaza Strip, and have decreased the amounts of some goods allowed into the Gaza Strip, such as fruits, milk and some dairy products.

PCHR calls upon the international community and international humanitarian organizations to immediately intervene to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law and abstention for imposing more measures of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population. PCHR calls also for ensuring the immediate flow of foods, medicines and other goods into the Gaza Strip in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian law and human rights law. In this context, PCHR welcome the call by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, to the European Commission to suspend commercial relations with Israel until it stops violating the right of Palestinians to receive food without any restrictions. In his report to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Ziegler noted that 22% of the Palestinian children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories suffer from malnutrition due to the lack of access to food. PCHR welcomes also the report wrote by Mr. John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in which he called upon State Members, in their capacity as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure Israel’s compliance with the Convention.[3]

PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, including Israel, of their obligations under the Convention and other international human rights instruments, particularly:

1) The High Contracting Parties’ obligation under common article 1 of the Geneva Conventions to respect and respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstance.

2) The obligation under article 1-1 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) to respect and ensure respect for the Protocol in all circumstances.

3) Their obligation under article 54 of Protocol, under which:

“1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.

2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

4) Their obligation under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which is “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

5) The obligation under article 55 of the Convention, which is “the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate. The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, except for use by the occupation forces and administration personnel, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account…”

6) “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” (Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

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For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893

PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: [email protected], Webpage http://www.pchrgaza.org

[1] The Israeli radio in Arabic.

[2] Israeli Occupation Forces bombarded the plant on 28 June 2007, cutting electricity off more than half of the Gaza Strip. The plant used to provide the Gaza Strip with at least 90 megawatts of electricity, which constituted about 45% of the consumption of electricity in the Gaza Strip.

[3] UN GA, the state of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, note form the Secretary General, submitted to the 62nd session of the UN GA, 17 August 2007.