Date: 08 July 2013
Time: 11:00 GMT
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is deeply concerned for the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, especially in light of the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, which has been the sole outlet for the movement of the population of the Gaza Strip to the outside world. This situation reveals again the reality of the situation in the Gaza Strip under the policy of collective punishment and the closure of all border crossings by Israeli authorities for more than six years. PCHR calls upon the Egyptian Government to reconsider the decision to close the crossing point in order to end the suffering of thousands of Palestinian who have been stuck in the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Cairo International Airport and other countries. PCHR calls further upon the international community to immediately intervene to pressurize the Israeli authorities to reopen all border crossing, lift the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip and stop the policy of collective punishment they practice against the civilian population.
The current situation in the Gaza Strip brings to mind the hardest early years of the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip when Israel had closed all crossings of the Gaza Strip since June 2007, which had led to deterioration of living conditions of the civilian population. That dire situation had continued for three successive years, and it was relatively eased by the Egyptian decision to open Rafah International Crossing Point in June 2010 to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, and to allow a limited number of people to move to and from the Gaza Strip. This measure partially eased the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. Additionally, entering basic needs into the Gaza Strip through tunnels established at the Palestinian-Egyptian border further eased the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip as Israeli authorities had banned the entry of goods. Goods imported into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, especially foodstuffs, medicines, fuel, construction materials and cars, have spared the Gaza Strip the breakdown of all vital sectors.
In the latest development resulted from the internal Egyptian crisis and the deterioration of the security situation in North Sinai, the Egyptian authorities decided on 05 July 2013 to close Rafah International Crossing Point. Before this closure, restrictions had been imposed on imports through tunnels. Such measures have proved that all Israeli claims concerning easing the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip are false.
According to PCHR’s observations, the Gaza Strip has suffered shortages in most basic goods, fuel and some construction materials. According to PCHR’s statistics, the goods allowed by Israel into the Gaza Strip do not meet the minimum of the Gaza Strip’s needs. In June 2013, the Israeli authorities allowed 5,424 truckloads (181 truckloads daily) into the Gaza Strip. This number constitutes only 31.7% of the number of truckloads that had been allowed into the Gaza Strip daily before the closure was imposed, which was 570 truckloads daily.
PCHR has observed that most kinds of fuel have run out in the Gaza Strip. Cooking gas has run out in all gas stations in the Gaza Strip due to limited quantities allowed by the Israeli authorities into the Gaza Strip. In June, 3,160 tons of cooking gas were allowed into the Gaza Strip (105.3 tons daily), which constitute 52.6% of the population’s actual daily needs, which is 200 tons. It should be noted that cooking gas cylinders imported into the Gaza Strip through tunnels have partially met the population’s needs over the past years.
As a result of stopped supplies of diesel and benzene through tunnels, the quantities that were available in fuel stations have run out, so most fuel stations have been closed, excluding a few ones that have depended on fuel exported from Israel. In June 2013, the Israeli authorities allowed 371,000 liters of diesel and 578,800 liters of benzene into the Gaza Strip. These quantities are very limited in comparison with the Gaza Strip’s needs, which had amounted before the Israeli decision to reduce the quantities of fuel supplied to the Gaza Strip to about 350,000 liters of diesel and 120,000 liters of benzene daily.
Over the past two weeks, there has been a sharp increase in the prices of all construction materials, and some of them have disappeared from the markets as their supplies through tunnels have been stopped. According to PCHR’s statistics, only 6,574 tons of cement and 504 tons of construction steel were entered into the Gaza, which constitute less than 0.8% and 0.9% respectively of the actual monthly needs. Due to the continued ban imposed by Israel on imports of construction materials, the population of the Gaza Strip has depended for their construction projects over the past years on construction materials entered into the Gaza Strip from Egypt through tunnels. As such supplies have been stopped, all construction projects, including housing ones, in the Gaza Strip are expected to be stopped.
As a result of the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, which has been the sole outlet for the Gaza Strip to the outside world as Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing has been closed for more than six years, 1.7 million Palestinians have been denied their right to freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip. According to PCHR’s observations, hundreds of Palestinians, including dozens of patients, Palestinian families living in other countries and university students who study abroad, have been stuck in Egypt waiting to be allowed to travel back to the Gaza Strip.
This human tragedy is doubled by the continuous detention of dozens of Palestinians by the Egyptian authorities at Cairo International Airport in the so-called “trander room” waiting for the Rafah International Crossing Point to be reopened in order to be transferred to the Gaza Strip. These Palestinians are held under inhuman conditions and there are concerns that they may catch infections. Additionally, hundreds of Palestinians in various countries around the world have been denied traveling to Egypt on their way to the Gaza Strip, including more than 900 ones who had traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Omra (the lesser pilgrimage).
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of patients who need advanced medical treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip and persons who work in other countries, have not been able to travel abroad.
In light of these recent developments, which unequivocally prove that the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is still ongoing, PCHR:
· Calls upon the Egyptian Government to reopen Rafah International Crossing Point to end the suffering of thousands of Palestinian who have been stuck in the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Cairo International Airport and other countries.
· Calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to remind Israel, as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, of its obligation towards the civilian population under Article 55 of the Convention, which states: “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate….”
· Calls upon the international community to pressurize the Israeli authorities to stop the policy of collective punishment against the population of the Gaza Strip and immediately open all border crossing to put an end to the serious deterioration of the humanitarian conditions of the civilian population.
· Calls upon the Israeli authorities to comply with the international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, including finding a prompt solution to ensure the freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing regularly and safely, and to establish a clear system ensuring the freedom of movement of the population of the Gaza Strip and safe passage and flow of the population’s needs through commercial crossings.