Palestinians' humanitarian conditions have substantially deteriorated since the beginning of 2006 as a result of Israel's closures and withholding of custom and tax monies. The situation was exacerbated by the international financial sanctions on the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The year 2007 has seen the worst economic conditions ever in Gaza. Humanitarian conditions have rapidly deteriorated over the past few days since Israel started the latest military operation on 16 May 2007. The population of As Syafa area has particularly suffered from isolating them since.
Israel adopts closures and siege as a blanket policy in Gaza. Those have always been part of its military activity in Gaza where IOF close the crossing points prohibiting mobility of individuals and goods and causing paralysis to economic activities. Closures also restrict the entry of humanitarian assistance for the 1.5 million people living in Gaza. closures have immediate effects as over 80% of Gaza's population live under the official poverty line. Approximately 44% of the population live in extreme poverty (less than $1 per day). Al Mezan's fieldworkers reported that IOF closed the Karni Crossing, the only cargo crossing in Gaza, on 15 may 2006. The crossing was partially open in the past two days. Erez crossing remains closed before Palestinians, save for those who have extreme humanitarian conditions given that IOF issue special permissions for them.
The people of As Syafa area, which is located in the northwestern part of the Gaza Strip, have lived under severe conditions since IOF's most recent incursion in their area. On Thursday 17 May 2007, IOF ground forces stormed into the area and created a military base that isolated it from the rest of Gaza. The 40 families (about 200 people) have been denied access to food, medical care and to their farmland.
The Center's fieldworkers reported that the residents of As Syafa said they are about to run out of food and medicine. Their situation worsened after the IOF opened fire at the electricity transformers at 9pm Monday 21 May 2007 casing them to live in a total blackout and unable to store food. At 7.40pm Thursday 17 May 2007, IOF broke into a 4-story-house owned by Yasser Tafish, and took positions on its rooftop. The family (18 individuals) was coerced to move to a neighboring house, which is owned by their relatives, and to stay inside it.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the continued violations of human rights by IOF; especially economic, social and cultural rights, in the Gaza Strip. The Center is highly concerned by the consequences of the escalation of IOF's military attacks, and of the Israeli and international sanctions on the wellbeing of Gaza's population. The Center therefore calls upon the international community to intervene and ensure Israel's compliance with international law, which places clear obligations on it, as an occupying power, to respect the civilian population and respect their life, property and dignity, and their access to basic goods. In all circumstances, international law prohibits the employment of collective punishment on civilians.