Israel Intensifies its Collective Punishment of Residents of the Gaza Strip

· For six days in a row, Israel has been blocking all the crossings to the Gaza Strip

· Gaza’s power plant will cease its operations tonight, following Israel’s failure to transfer industrial diesel to the Gaza Strip

· Gisha says: "the residents of Gaza should not pay the price for the escalation in violence, just as the residents of Sderot and the south of Israel should be kept out of the line of fire"

Mon., November 10, 2008 – Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today warns of the serious implications expected as a result of the continued total closure of the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, for the sixth day in a row: "residents of the Gaza Strip should not pay the price for the escalation in violence, just as those living in Sderot and the south of Israel should be kept out of the line of fire.International law prohibits harming civilians, even in times of war, and explicitly prohibits acts of collective punishment inflicted against the civilian population, such as the measures currently being taken by Israel".

The continued closure of the crossings, including the Nahal Oz terminal, the only point of entry for regular transfer of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip, may lead to a total halt in electricity production at the Gaza power plant as of 6:30pm today. At that time, all reserves of the industrial diesel fuel used for power generation are expected to run out. Last night, power outages lasting approximately 6 hours occurred in half of Gaza City, and such outages are expected to extend tonight to surrounding areas and to the central Gaza Strip. Electricity will be distributed among the various neighborhoods, so that in any given neighborhood the outages will last about 8 hours, followed by regular supply for another 8 hours, and then another 8-hour outage. The outages will affect approximately 800,000 of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents as well as major hospitals, health clinics, and water and sewage treatment centers.

The closure of the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip started Wednesday, November 4th, following military action initiated by Israel in the Al Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip and the ensuing escalation in violence. In retaliation to the firing of rockets on the Israeli civilian population – an act which is prohibited by international humanitarian law – Israel made an illegitimate decision to close the crossings and prevent the transfer of fuel and other goods to Gaza, resulting in collective punishment of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.

The closure of the crossings has also caused a severe shortage in cooking oil, impacting many households and bakeries in Gaza.A baker in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza told Gisha that he closed his bakery at 11am today because he had no cooking gas to heat the baking oven. The bakery is owned by a charity which distributes bread among Gaza’s poorest families.Already today bread will not be distributed to many of the families who depend on the charity and tomorrow, it is expected that all the families will be left without bread. The Gaza Strip Bakery Owners’ Association chairman, Mr. Abu Jamal al Ajarmi, confirmed that by tomorrow morning some of Gaza’s bakeries may cease operations due the cooking oil and electricity shortages.He also said that the closure threatens the dwindling reserves of wheat in Gaza, which at present are expected to last only seven days.

Yesterday Adv. Yadin Elam of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement sent an urgent letter to the Defense Minister and to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, in which he demanded that fuel and gas transfers to the Gaza Strip through the Nahal Oz terminal be resumed immediately. Adv. Elam also noted that the defense establishment undertook before the High Court of Justice in January 2008 to allow limited quantities of fuel and gas into the Gaza Strip, in amounts which in and of themselves are insufficient for the existing needs there. Even before last week’s closure, Gaza had suffered from a few hours of power outages each day, because of the existing restrictions on fuel supply.In its letter to the Defense Minister, Gisha noted the violation of the commitment to the High Court of Justice, and protested the closure of the crossings, an act which is causing "serious harm to the humanitarian needs of the residents of the Gaza Strip and preventing them from having any chance of leading normal lives".