Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Israeli Human Rights Organizations: Open Gaza's Crossings to Goods and Civilians

From the Gisha website:
Human rights organizations in Israel today called on the State of Israel to immediately and fully open the crossings of the Gaza Strip to the passage of goods and people. The organizations are especially demanding the unimpeded passage of medical equipment, medical personnel and wounded people as well as fuel and spare parts for the humanitarian infrastructure.

On "the day after" the fighting in Gaza, the magnitude of the death and destruction continues to come to light. Bodies are still being pulled out of the wreckage, bringing the death toll to well over 1,300, and hundreds of thousands of people are contending with water, sewage, and health systems that are in a state of collapse.

Despite the wreckage that is still being uncovered these very days, the Israeli Supreme Court last night rejected two petitions submitted by human right organizations in Israel, demanding the evacuation of wounded from the Gaza Strip and the supply of electricity to Gaza's humanitarian infrastructure, especially the health, water and sewage systems. The court rejected the petitions without even waiting for the explanations the State was supposed to submit today, in response to claims by the human rights groups that Israel was not permitting evacuation of those injured in the Gaza Strip.

The collapse of the humanitarian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip was expected, as it was a result of a planned and deliberate Israeli policy of closure of the Gaza Strip. For the last 14 months Israel has deliberately and consistently restricted the supply of fuel and other goods into the Gaza Strip. That policy of punitive measures against the residents of Gaza drained Gaza's humanitarian institutions, especially the health, water and sewage systems, of the fuel, medical equipment and spare parts they needed to cope with the devastating effects of three weeks of fighting. Despite repeated warnings by human rights groups, Israel continued, with the sanction of the Supreme Court, to consistently and methodically limit the volume of goods entering Gaza. The result is the collapse of Gaza's humanitarian systems – in the absence of the fuel, electricity, and spare parts needed to run water wells, sewage pipes, and the health care system – badly damaged by the bombing.

The organizations said: "Israel itself brought the humanitarian systems in Gaza to the brink of collapse – and then gave them the final push. The tremendous number of injured – over 5,000 – requires substantial investment in rehabilitation. It is incumbent upon Israel to allow the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip."

The organizations who petitioned the court are: Adalah * Gisha * Physicians for Human Rights-Israel * Association for Civil Rights in Israel * Bimkom * Hamoked * The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel * Rabbis for Human Rights * Yesh Din