May 12, 2021. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, dozens of people, including children, have already been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. As of now, at least five people in Israel, including one child, were killed by rocket fire from the Strip. Deliberate or indiscriminate fire toward civilian population centers is a war crime. Israel must protect its citizens, but the violation of the laws of war by the opposing party in a conflict do not warrant or 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 human rights of the Strip’s two million residents.

Erez Crossing, the pedestrian crossing between Gaza and Israel, has been closed almost hermetically by Israel since March 2020, under the pretext of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. As hostilities commenced, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announced that travel via Erez would only be permitted for the most “exceptional and humanitarian” of cases, but the spokesperson of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said yesterday that not even patients seeking life-saving medical treatment outside the Strip were allowed to pass through Erez.

On May 10, Israel closed Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s main commercial crossing, to movement of goods, blocking the entrance of humanitarian aid and fuel destined for Gaza’s power plant. The resulting shortage in fuel has already led to a drop in the overall availability of electricity to Gaza residents, who were receiving power for no longer than 8 consecutive hours even before the crossing was closed. The United Nations warned that unless fuel is allowed to enter, the supply of electricity will stop completely by this weekend.

Israel is also banning all access to Gaza’s sea space, a cynical and punitive measure that harms fishermen’s livelihoods and food supply. Aiming fire at civilians is prohibited under international law, as is collectively punishing civilians by blocking movement through the crossings and access to sea.

For years, the closure enforced by Israel has severely hindered Gaza’s economy, damaged its health system, and created dire humanitarian conditions for its residents. These are now being compounded by Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the closing of Erez and Kerem Shalom crossing.

Information received by Gisha yesterday from officials at the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) and the health system in the Strip indicates that:

  • Three power lines connecting hospitals, homes, and businesses to Gaza’s power plant were damaged in Israeli bombings and were put out of commission. GEDCO does not have at its disposal the equipment and materials needed to repair the power lines.
  • Hospitals in Gaza, already operating at full capacity to treat the numerous COVID-19 patients in the Strip, are filling up with casualties from Israel’s attacks. In addition, the hospitals’ functioning has been harmed by the decreasing supply of electricity, impacting, among other things, the production of oxygen needed for respirators.

Gisha calls on Israel to stop the illegal, disproportionate use of force against Gaza’s civilian population, to refrain from further violation of residents’ human rights, open Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, and remove the ban on access to the sea.