United Nations seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people - International response to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Gaza Strip


Plenary II: Looking ahead: Identifying the most urgent humanitarian, reconstruction and development needs

Presented by:
Ghassan Kasabreh, Director
NGO Development Center (NDC)

March 2009


I would like to start by extending my appreciation to the organizers of the conference and the Bureau of the Committee for giving the NGO Development Center this opportunity to take part in the seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people and for providing the inputs, from the perspective of the NGO sector, to the international response to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Gaza Strip. Specially, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Committee for the continuous efforts it exerts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self determination, their right to the independent State of Palestine, to support the Middle East peace process and to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people. With our focus on Gaza during this critical period of political, humanitarian and financial crises, cooperation with the civil society is essential in order to mobilize international solidarity and support to the Palestinian people.

I. GAZA: Prior to and the Aftermath of the Israeli Military Operations in December 2008

a. Gaza prior to Israel's military offensive on December 27, 2008

It is imperative to take a step back and look at the situation in the Gaza Strip prior to Israel's 22 day military offensive which began on December 27, 2008. Notwithstanding Israel's unilateral disengagement of Gaza in 2005, the fact that Gaza remains occupied territory means that Israel's actions towards the people and territory must be measured against standards of international humanitarian law and Israel must be held accountable for these violations. On September 19, 2007, Israel's Security Cabinet declared Gaza to be "hostile territory." Following this declaration, Israel cut fuel and electricity supply to the Gaza Strip, and has dramatically decreased the number of humanitarian aid and commercial import, exercised substantial control of Gaza's six land crossings, completely controlled Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, in clear violation of the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) of 2005.

Even though Israel declared its unilateral disengagement and claims that it no longer is responsible for the Gaza Strip, the test for determining whether a territory is occupied under international law is effective control,1 and not the permanent physical presence of the occupying power's military forces in the territory in question. The strangulation over Gaza, land and people, remained for over 18 months prior to Israel's military offensive, known as 'Operation Cast Lead.