Israel keeps Gaza in a vise

Relatives of Abd al-Karim Radwan, killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during his funeral in Rafah, southern Gaza, on 20 July.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Hospitals have had to temporarily close and Gaza’s sole power station was shut down as Israel continues to ban imports to and exports from the territory.

Israel’s stated reason for the tightened restrictions imposed earlier this month was the launching of incendiary balloons and kites from Gaza in previous weeks.

Israel halted fuel imports to the territory last week.

Palestinians have ceased launching the balloons and kites since a ceasefire was reportedly declared between Hamas and Israel late Friday.

Israel had pounded Gaza with air strikes and artillery fire Friday evening after an Israeli soldier and three Palestinians died in exchanges of fire. The previous day, Abd al-Karim Radwan, a member of Hamas’ military wing, was killed when Israel fired at a group of Palestinians allegedly launching burning kites.

“Their side will not return to normal routine”

The military announced that Israeli communities near the Gaza boundary could return to “civilian routine” following the ceasefire.

But Israel continues to keep Gaza’s two million Palestinians in a vise.

“Gaza’s residents need to understand that as long as there are incendiary balloons and fires on our side, life on their side will not return to a normal routine,” Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman stated on Sunday.

“The key is quiet, calm, zero incendiary balloons, zero border friction and zero rockets or God forbid shootings,” he added.

Lieberman’s remarks are an admission that the tightened import and export restrictions are a form of collective punishment.

In 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross affirmed that Israel’s blockade on Gaza, now in place for more than a decade, “constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Then, as now, “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” the ICRC stated.

More than a dozen human rights groups based in Israel said last week that “Closing Gaza’s major crossing for movement of goods, the main lifeline for almost two million people, half of whom are children, constitutes an illegal and immoral act of collective punishment.”

“Lives at stake”

On Sunday United Nations humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick reiterated his call on Israel to end restrictions preventing the import of fuel to Gaza.

He warned that emergency fuel funded by international donors is set to run out in early August as Gaza residents endure blackouts of around 20 hours each day.

“At least one hospital has been forced to shut down for a few hours, and services are being dramatically reduced at others,” McGoldrick stated.

“If fuel does not come in immediately, people’s lives will be at stake, with the most vulnerable patients, like cardiac patients, those on dialysis, and newborns in intensive care, at highest risk,” he added.

Gaza’s al-Quds hospital “will be forced to shut down in coming days due to lack of fuel, with another four hospitals likely to run out within the next three days,” McGoldrick’s office said.

More than 7,000 surgeries have been postponed in recent months as Gaza’s hospitals have struggled to cope with thousands of live fire injuries by Israeli forces during mass protests along the territory’s eastern boundary.

“Grave public health risks”

Waterborne diseases could break out if water and sanitation facilities reduce functioning.

The exhaustion of available fuel supplies for water and sanitation, set to run out by the end of July, “would also potentially lead to sewage overflowing into inhabited areas, entailing grave public health risks,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Last week the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan decried “the inaction of the international community” which has allowed the closure and blockade of Gaza to continue for 11 years.

The UN has long warned that Gaza will become “unlivable” by the year 2020 due to the economic deterioration resulting from Israel’s closure, blockade and successive military assaults.

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The key is quiet, calm, zero Zionism, zero invasion and zero F-35 or God forbid collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.