Today, human rights organizations Gisha, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights sent an urgent letter (Hebrew) to Israel’s Minister of Defense, Attorney General, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, demanding they take action to put an immediate stop to the killing and harming of Gaza’s civilian population. The organizations also called on Israeli authorities to open Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings without delay so as to allow humanitarian access, at the very least, including exit of patients in need of urgent medical treatment that is not available in Gaza and entry of fuel and other essential goods. In the letter, the organizations stated that Israel’s violation of its legal obligations towards Gaza residents may amount to war crimes.
Since August 2, Israel has blocked all movement and access through its crossings with Gaza, Erez and Kerem Shalom. The crossings were closed for a full three days before Israel launched its military attack on the Strip on Friday (August 5), which has already resulted in a high death toll, hundreds of injuries, and the displacement of dozens of families from their homes. Israel is blocking travel via Erez Crossing even for urgent medical treatment and other humanitarian needs, and preventing all transit of goods via Kerem Shalom, including entry of fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant, which shut down yesterday (August 6) due to a lack of fuel. As a result, Gaza’s already insufficient electricity supply has been further reduced, now standing at less than 20% of actual demand. The severe shortage means that power is now available to residents for up to 4 consecutive hours, followed by at least 16 hours of outage. Civilian infrastructure and services, such as Gaza’s hospitals, which are treating high numbers of casualties, and water and sewage treatment facilities across the Strip, have already been impacted.
Israel’s closing of its crossings with Gaza causes grave harm to Palestinians in the Strip, compounding the damage caused by its repeated military assaults and the illegal closure it enforces regularly. “The existence of security threats, including risks posed during hostilities, do not absolve Israel of its humanitarian obligations towards residents of the Gaza Strip,” the organizations emphasized in their letter.
The organizations further emphasized that Israel’s attacks on civilians and homes, prevention of movement of people, including medical patients, and blocking the supply of essential goods are illegal according to the principles of international law. “The violation of these principles raises serious suspicion of flagrant violations of the laws of armed conflict that may amount to war crimes, and you are required to stop them immediately,” the letter stated.
To read the letter, click here (Hebrew).