oPt

Al Mezan condemns IOF attacks on Gaza; calls for international intervention to ensure protection of civilians

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The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has escalated its attacks against the Gaza Strip. Eight Palestinians were killed and five were injured in fourteen attacks against the Gaza Strip in the first ten days of 2010. This escalation comes at the same time as increasing threats by Israeli government and military officials that military attacks, or even large operations, against Gaza Strip could occur in the soon future.

IOF attacks have particularly increased near the Gaza Strip's eastern and northern borders with Israel. Some attacks occurred close to the border fence; however, many other attacks occurred when civilians were more than a kilometer from the border. Israeli military boats also opened fire on Palestinian fishermen in their boats.. The IOF has launched a series of aerial attacks; one of which targeted Palestinian tunnel workers who were resting in a tent near the Gaza-Egypt border; killing three civilians; one of whom was a child.

The IOF dropped warning leaflets in various places in the Gaza Strip, warning the population from approaching the border fence and informing them that what they called 'terrorists, tunnel owners and smuggler' were working from among their homes. One leaflet urged people to communicate information about those to the IOF and provided contact information. The dropping of leaflets brings to mind the period prior to last winter's Israeli aggression (Operation Cast Lead), and raises concerns that the IOF would increase disproportionate military attacks that fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants in violation of international law.

These developments have occurred as Israel tightens its siege of the Gaza Strip. The IOF has imposed more restrictions on humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. The IOF announced on Monday 11 Janu 2009 the full closure of the Nahal Oz Crossing, which was used for fuel supplies to Gaza. On Monday 4 January 2010, the IOF halted work at this crossing and moved fuel supplies to the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing. Three months ago, Israel had started to allow limited fuel supplies through this crossing. Other vital goods, such as construction materials, clothes, and raw materials are still banned from Gaza.

According to information collected by Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the IOF has reduced the amounts of cooking gas and industrial diesel it allows into Gaza, allowing an average of 105 tons of cooking gas daily. Gaza's needs 250 tons of gas daily for cooking. This restriction has caused an acute shortage on which the population depends heavily for daily life.

Industrial diesel is necessary for Gaza's only power plant. It needs 3.5 million litres of diesel weekly to work properly. When Nahal Oz Crossing was operating, the IOF allowed an average of 1.5 million litres to enter weekly. Nevertheless, the IOF has further reduced this amount sharply since it moved the fuel supply to the new crossing, only allowing 484.000 litres to enter Gaza between 1 and 10 January 2010, i.e. 32% of the previous, already insufficient rate. These reductions have caused continuous electricity cuts around the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company has been forced to schedule rotating electricity cuts.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns the IOF's violations of the rules of international law in Gaza. Al Mezan is gravely concerned by the implications of tightening Israel's siege measures, which constitute collective punishment of the entire population and violate basic human rights. The siege had continued despite the outcry of the world community. As stated in the Goldstone Report, "the set of human rights violations the siege causes, coupled with depriving Gazans from access to legal remedies, amount to persecution; a crime against humanity".

Al Mezan also expresses its outrage for the continued lack of any meaningful international protection of Gaza's population. This has, as a point of fact, encouraged IOF to continue its serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Gaza, and the occupied Palestinian territory for too long. Al Mezan therefore calls on the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to uphold their moral and legal obligations and take action to bring to a swift end the violations of international law and the illegal collective punishment.