May 16, 2021. For the past week, the Gaza Strip has been under heavy bombardment by Israel, leading to hundreds of casualties and injuries, displacing thousands from their homes, and damaging vital civilian infrastructure. Alongside all this, Israel has keep its crossings with Gaza completely sealed, preventing exit of patients in need of life-saving treatment in Israel and the West Bank and blocking entrance of humanitarian aid, including fuel, which is hampering electricity production needed to supply water and run sanitation infrastructure, and power hospitals and homes.

As of this morning, six of twelve high voltage power lines that bring electricity purchased from Israel to the Strip have been damaged. Total available supply stands at less than a quarter of consumption on the eve of the fighting (96 megawatts out of a demand for 400). The Gaza Electricity Distribution company is calling on Israel to repair damaged lines on its side of the fence. In addition, the shortage of fuel due to the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday (11.5) risks halting operations of the local power plant. The Gaza Ministry of Health warned that power outages at medical facilities could cause damage to essential medical equipment. Shortage of fuel and electricity, as well as direct hits to civilian infrastructure, are also impairing delivery of water to home and impairing the sewage system.

As of this morning, some 22,000 internally displaced persons were seeking shelter in 36 UNRWA schools, according to UNRWA. The fact that just 1% of the population is vaccinated and virus rates remain high in the Strip, compounds the public health concerns soaring already at the moment. Even before the hostilities began, hospitals were struggling to provide care to coronavirus patients and others. The Gaza Ministry of Health called on Israel to allow patients to exit and also allow medical teams to enter from outside the Strip. The complete closure of Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza threatens the lives of patients and injured seeking access to life-saving treatment unavailable in the Strip.

In an urgent letter, Gisha, Adalah, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel warn the Minister of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Military Advocate General that indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against civilians, and attacks on residential homes and civilian infrastructure are prohibited and raise grave suspicions of severe violations of international humanitarian law that could amount to war crimes. Last Thursday (13.5), Gisha together with 10 other human rights and civil society organizations sent another urgent appeal to the Minister of Defense, the Attorney General and the Coordinator of Government Operations in the Occupied Territories demanding they reverse the decision to close Gaza’s crossings, allow movement of people and passage of aid.

Gisha calls on Israel to stop the killing and destruction in Gaza, open the crossings, and meet the basic humanitarian needs of residents, which it is obligated to do by law. Violation of the laws of war by the opposing party in a conflict do not justify the violation of Israel’s obligations toward Gaza residents living under its occupation. Israel must adhere to the provisions of international law at all times and protect the rights of Gaza residents.