Palestinians in Gaza lose their livelihoods

Fishing boats sit at Gaza’s main port. Boats in Gaza, like vehicles, do not have enough fuel to run due to the ongoing Israeli siege, 15 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continues its tight siege and prevents movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. This includes patients who are close to dying due to denied access to hospitals abroad. Sources from the Palestinian Ministry of Health have indicated that more than 100 patients have died since mid-June 2007. On top of this, the imposed siege has caused the economy to collapse, thereby robbing tens of thousands of Palestinians from their livelihoods.

In a new development, the siege threatens the fishing industry, which employs 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Three thousand of those are fishermen. The severe fuel cuts by the IOF affect their work directly. Most of the fishing boats in Gaza have small engines running only on benzene. Larger fishing boats, of which there are sixteen in the Strip, run on diesel. Each of these boats consumes 700 liters of diesel per day. This drives the consumption of all boats to 11,200 liters every day. In addition, fishermen use cooking gas to light areas of the sea, which attract the fish.

The fuel reductions by the IOF produced a serious situation for Gaza. Fishing in the Gaza Strip is seasonal and is allowed to take pace only in shallow waters 3-5 nautical miles off the coast. Additionally, Gaza lacks a fish farm industry. Fishermen wait anxiously for the three-month sardine fishing season, which begins in April. The IOF, since the beginning of March 2008, allowed only 100,000 liters of benzene per day to enter the Strip. This is half the quantity permitted to enter the Strip per day before March. Only 1,297,600 liters of diesel have been allowed into the Strip since 1 March 2008. The Gaza Strip requires on average 400,000 liters of diesel daily; making the necessary quantity of fuel until today 4,400,000 liters.

There is not only damage to the fishing industry, but other sectors are affected, including the NGO sector, which discharges part of the humanitarian assistance as well as other essential services. The shortage of fuel started to affect the work of NGOs, especially during the latest IOF attacks on the Strip last week.

Civilian cars cannot move and the sharp price in fuel prevents transportation, which exacerbates the population’s suffering in light of severe economic hardship. The siege contributes directly to the unprecedented rise in poverty and unemployment we are witnessing today.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reiterates its strong condemnation of the ongoing siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, which constitutes grave breaches of international humanitarian law. The IOF justifies providing the residents with their “minimum needs” of fuel, which contradicts international law, a measure that the IOF itself decides at will. International law is meant to ensure that the needs of the population are met even under the conditions of conflict and/or occupation. Meeting the needs of civilians under the control of the IOF is not a duty of the IOF, it is a right of the population. The very notion of “minimum needs” is an unprecedented invention by the IOF and has no basis in international humanitarian law.

Al Mezan repeats its call for the international community to end its silence and uphold its legal and moral duty towards the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in the Gaza Strip. It must act effectively and urgently to end the imposed siege on the Strip that threatens the lives and livelihoods of the civilians, who require urgent international protection.

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