The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned about the continuing closure of border crossings into the Gaza Strip, which have now been sealed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for 27 consecutive days. This current and unprecedented closure of Gaza is inflicting severe collective punishment on the entire civilian population, in total violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. PCHR demands the international community intervene to end these latest acts of collective punishment being imposed on Palestinian civilians by Israel.
The 1.6 million civilians of the Gaza Strip are being denied all their rights to freedom of movement, and are confined inside Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating amidst chronic fuel shortages, and shortages of goods, including essential food items. The Gaza power plant has been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, and Gazans are now totally dependent on electricity generated from Israel, and to a lesser extent, Egypt. There are also chronic severe shortages of domestic cooking gas. Regarding essential food items, IOF have not permitted any consignments of flour to enter the Gaza Strip for one week (this does not apply to the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, which has its own flour stocks), and current stocks are sufficient for just less than three days. Five of the six flour mills in the Gaza Strip have been forced to close.
Meanwhile, patients who require urgent medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip are facing immense travel restrictions, with an average of just seventeen patients a day currently permitted to leave Gaza in order to access emergency medical treatment in Israel.
Civilians are enduring power cuts for up to 10 hours a day across the Gaza Strip, which is severely affecting every aspect of life in Gaza. Local emergency health services are teetering on the brink of collapse as they try to respond to critical cases amidst constant and severe shortages of electricity, medication and other vital, life-saving equipment. In addition, many Gaza families are being denied access to drinking water, as there is insufficient fuel for the electric water pumps that supply domestic drinking water.
This latest closure of the civilian and commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip by the IOF is part of the IOF’s ongoing occupation of the Gaza Strip, and its overall strategy to isolate the civilian population of Gaza, and punish them collectively. Through its gathering of documentation and data, and its continuing investigations into human rights violations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), PCHR has exposed years of IOF human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, including violations of the right to freedom of movement, access to appropriate health care and violations of civilians’ economic and social rights, including their right to work.
The Gaza economy has now all but collapsed due to IOF refusing to allow the export of Gaza goods through the five border crossings that it directly controls. Seventy-six percent of the Gaza population is currently at least partially dependent on humanitarian aid, and PCHR reiterates that IOF strategies have forced Gaza into chronic poverty, making it one of the most aid-dependent communities on earth. The current closure of the Gaza Strip is manufacturing a serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and is part of the overall range of human rights violations being perpetrated against the civilian population of Gaza.
PCHR reiterates that collective punishment of a civilian population is illegal under humanitarian and international human rights law, and that the international community is therefore legally and morally obliged to intervene immediately, and demand that the IOF end the current closure of the Gaza Strip, and ceases the continuing occupation of the Gaza Strip, as well as the collective punishment of the entire civilian population.
PCHR condemns all attacks on civilians, and urges armed groups within the Gaza Strip to cease firing rockets and other projectiles towards Israel. However, PCHR reiterates that Israel remains the Occupying Power in the Gaza Strip, and that even when the current closure is lifted, the siege of the Gaza Strip will continue as long as Israel remains the Occupying Power.
Israel’s current closure of the Gaza Strip is putting a severe strain on the temporary cease fire agreed upon between Gaza and Israel on 19 June 2008, which is scheduled to be reviewed by both sides on 19 December.