Human rights groups: Stop restrictions on Gaza’s fuel supply; stop attacks on civilians at crossings

Tue., April 29, 2008 – Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups today issued an urgent call to cease restrictions on Gaza’s fuel supply and stop the unprecedented harm to Gaza’s humanitarian needs. The listed- below rights groups warned:

We express concern and outrage at the systematic dismantling of the Gaza Strip’s vital systems by preventing the residents of Gaza, a territory under Israel’s occupation, from obtaining the fuel they need to generate electricity, power hospitals, run transportation, pump water and sewage, and provide for basic social and economic needs.

We call upon Israel, the occupying power in Gaza, immediately to end the six-month long restrictions on fuel supply that have paralyzed Gaza’s infrastructure and endangered the health and well-being of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

We call on armed groups in Gaza to refrain from attacking civilians, including at the crossings that channel fuel, food, and other goods into the Gaza Strip.

We call on Israel to refrain from attacking civilians and depriving them of basic rights and needs. We emphasize Israel’s obligation as the primary duty bearer under the law of occupation to ensure the humane treatment of the civilian population, including with respect to the provision of fuel to the Gaza Strip, ensuring the maintenance of hospitals, public health services and food and medical supplies and refraining from rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

We assert that acts of reprisals and collective penalties against civilians are unjustified and could be considered war crimes that must be investigated and stopped.

We call on all parties to respect their obligations under human rights and humanitarian law, especially the obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants".

Background: For the last six months, Israel has restricted the amount of fuel that Gaza residents may purchase, draining reserves and leaving essential systems vulnerable to supply interruptions. Israel does not permit Gaza residents to obtain fuel except via the fuel depot at Nahal Oz, on the Israel-Gaza border. The restrictions on fuel supply were upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court in January 2008, in a decision condemned by human rights groups as authorizing collective punishment. However, since an attack on the Nahal Oz crossing on April 9 that killed two civilians, Israel has restricted fuel supplies to levels far below even the minimum, insufficient levels promised to the Supreme Court. It has transferred no diesel or petrol supply and just 1/3 of the industrial diesel needed for Gaza’s power plant.

On April 7, Gaza’s petroleum company owners began striking, refusing to deliver the minimal quantities of petrol and diesel on the Palestinian side of Nahal Oz in protest of the restrictions that have crippled their ability to deliver fuel. The strike does not affect supply of industrial diesel, which is delivered directly to Gaza’s power plant.

Shortages in petrol for aid trucks prevented food delivery by UNRWA to 650,000 for five days, and reserves are low. Fuel shortages for Gaza’s water company have disrupted water supply and forced the pumping of 10-20 million liters raw sewage in the sea daily. Hospitals, schools and universities have been disrupted by absenteeism.

Al-Haq 
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights 
Al Dameer Association for Human Rights – Gaza 
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme 
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement 
Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel 
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights