Reports and Studies

Digest on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip

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4 July 2006

Humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip have greatly deteriorated since Israel occupied the Palestinian Territories in 1967; Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have tightened the already suffocating siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since September 2000 with the closure of every crossing linking the Gaza Strip with the outside world, the West Bank and Israel.
The hermetic siege occurs simultaneously with the intensification of IOF offensives of air, land and naval attacks.
Since the beginning of these attacks, the IOF have demonstrated a clear disregard of their legal commitments under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), most notably the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and International Human Rights treaties, particularly the International Convention of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The siege has deprived Gaza residents from receiving medical supplies and equipment, food and fuel.
IOF air strikes have targeted civil and indispensable infrastructure such as bridges, which has resulted in the disconnecting of the southern and middle districts from Gaza City, where the only well-equipped hospital is located.
The shelling has targeted the Gaza power station which supplies approximately 60% of the Gaza Strip population with electricity.
The IOF have repeatedly conducted collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, and this policy reached its highest point when the IOF bombed not only the power station but also the primary generators in the Palestinian territories which supply electricity from the Israeli Electricity Company.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern over ongoing Israeli threats to invade and launch a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Taking into account the dense Gaza population that would be severely harmed in the event of an Israeli military operation, this situation risks causing a humanitarian crisis.
In addition, the disruption of fuel in Palestinian service institutions, such as the Ministry of Health, reported that medical supplies and equipment are in great shortage during this IOF offensive.
This has augmented the number of wounded people, and reserves are expected to last no longer than 3 days.
The shortage of electricity endangers the functioning of generators at hospitals which are used to maintain the temperature of drugs; however, the scarce reserve could last for just three days.
According to Al Mezan field investigations, a real health crisis is emerging in the Gaza Strip due to the lack of fuel and shortage of electricity; further, untreated sewage has already been spilling into the sea and risks running over into the streets of Gaza, Deir Al Balah and Rafah.
Basic goods requirements for Gaza residents There are two principal problematic factors that should be taken into account before highlighting the needs of Gaza residents in relation to basic goods: First: the closure of Karni Crossing since the beginning of 2006 has impeded the availability of goods and fuel.
The IOF close Karni for extended periods at a time.
Karni Crossing Working Status 1/1/2006 until 25/6/2006
Days of total closure: 88
Days with hourly suspension: 2
Days of partial closure: 20
Days of early closure: 49 Second: the financial boycott imposed on the Palestinians has augmented poverty and unemployment rates in the OPT, where Ministries have been unable to provide fuel, drugs and basic goods due to the withdrawal of financial support.
On a daily basis, Gaza residents consume approximately 450 tons of flour, 111 tons of sugar, 72 tons of rice, 43 tons of cooking oil, 23 tons of grains, 5.
6 tons of tea and 263 tons of fodder for livestock cattle and birds.
The lack of food supplies and basic goods has resulted in the depletion of some goods and augmentation of prices with a 70% decrease in purchase ability.
The fact that around 160,000 government employees are unpaid has caused deferred payment at a time when store owners can no longer financially bear such debts.
Electricity Supply The Gaza Strip consumes 200 megawatts of electricity.
Part of which is supplied by the Gaza power plant and the rest by the Israeli Electricity Company.
The only power station in Gaza supplies 100 megawatts; it was established in 2002 and cannot entirely cover Gaza's electricity consumption.
The rest is supplied by Israel which takes advantage of the ongoing high Palestinian needs and thus augments its prices.
The reconstruction of the power station would cost 150 million USD and would take around five years.
The station was first operated in 2002, and reached highest production in 2004, but has now been completely suspended following the IOF bombing.
The power station is insured by the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation with around 48 million USD insured against any 'political danger'.
Due to the bombing, the company's loss is estimated at tens of millions of USD, due to the destruction of six generators; this situation endangers the well being of Gaza residents and severely affects economic sectors.
On June 28, 2006 at approximately 1.
20am, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) fired several missiles at the Gaza power station which resulted in total destruction of six generators and a cut of power for more than 700.
000 citizens in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza's fuel requirements (The table explains Gaza's fuel supply needs for transportation, hospital services and pumping drinking water.
Statistics would augment if industrial facilities' fuel requirements are included.
Gaza's daily fuel requirements: 601,920 Liters
Average daily supply: 90,000 Liters
Fuel supplied between July 2-3, 2006: 130,000 Liters Municipal services Municipal services, such as sewage systems, hygiene and water supply are of critical importance.
However, the siege imposed by the IOF on June 25th constitutes a serious threat to the suspension of all the above- mentioned services, due to the disruption of fuel used for operating sewage and hygiene vehicles and pumping drinking water or sewage, a situation that can rapidly cause a humanitarian crisis.
Therefore, in light of the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, and due to ongoing IOF air, land and naval attacks, the imposed siege, destruction of electricity generators and insufficient electricity supply by the Israeli Electricity Company, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights has found it of extreme importance to issue this report to highlight the current humanitarian crisis in accordance with facts collected by field specialists.
Water wells, fuel supply and reserves
of drinking water wells: 118
Daily consumption of fuel: 63,545
Municipality fuel reserves on July 2nd, 2006: 43,730 Performance of Hospitals The suffocating siege imposed on the Gaza Strip has resulted in a rapid deterioration of humanitarian conditions and has negatively affected medical services supervised by both the Palestinian Ministry of Health and by NGOs.
Consequently, the Ministry of Health and various medical centers are unable to operate adequately which causes danger to the health and wellbeing of Gaza residents, due to the disruption of food supplies, gas, fuel, medicine and equipment; of further importance are the shortages of fuel which is required to operate the generators that provide backup for the power cuts caused by the destruction of the power station in the northern district.
A severe crisis could occur if the power is entirely cut off due to closures.
Hospital utilization of fuel and reserves
Daily utilization of fuel: 30,380
Hospital fuel reserves on July 2nd 2006: 73,000 Number and type of vehicles & average daily utilization of fuel (Number of vehicles is based on the Ministry of Transport statistics, there are 4000 licensed cars, the rest are unlicensed (known as temporal)) Type of vehicle Taxi Truck Winch Mixer Trailer Trade transport Bus Number of vehicle 8,000 2,620 119 126 1136 7,566 254 Daily average utilization of fuel 20 50 30 100 70 30 50 Total 160 13 3.
57 12.
6 79.
5 226.
9 12.
7 508.
000 liters Areas under total siege and isolation On June 25th 2006, IOF imposed a total siege on Al Shoqa area in Rafah town by which the whole area became an isolated enclave disconnected from vital services such as drinking water and waste collection.
The siege intensified in the areas adjacent to the northern borders of the Gaza Strip, where the IOF conducted incessant bombardment, putting the entire area under total curfew.
There are more than 1,155 inhabitants in Al Shoqa village, residing in the areas south-east, north, west and south of Gaza International Airport, where the IOF troops have recently been deployed, and south-east of the borderline; the inhabitants have had no choice but to evacuate due to constant gunfire and artillery shelling, and have been deprived of securing food supplies.
In this respect, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) was successful in supplying small quantities of food to people in the area after several attempts at coordination with the IOF.
Al Shoqa village depends on one underground well that supplies the village with drinking water.
The well is 8 km from the village and is located in Oraiba area in Al Hashash neighborhood in northwestern Rafah.
According to the Water Department of Rafah Municipality, net water quantity pumped to the village constitutes only between 35-50% of the quantity required by the village; water doesn’t reach the eastern part of the village which depends on an Israeli water company (Makrout); Makrout’s water pipe was destroyed during the incursion while the well pumps water only for limited areas due to disruption of electricity and operation of a generator that requires additional fuel.
Thus, the village municipality made the decision to decrease pumping hours due to the fuel shortages.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the IOF crimes and confirms that targeting vital civilian infrastructure constitutes a war crime.
It is a grave violation of International Law, notably the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protections of Civilians Persons in Time of War.
Further, the attacks on civilian infrastructure constitute a clear escalation of collective punishment demonstrating the IOF disregard to political commitments they must abide by under International Law.
The Center reconfirms that this is one of a string of Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians and properties in the OPT.
The silence of the International community is to be condemned because it encourages Israeli war crimes.
Al Mezan hereby confirms that the International Community, most notably the High Contracting Parties to Geneva Convention should undertake their legal obligations and immediately intervene to put a halt to Israeli war crimes.
There is a serious threat of humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip should the IOF continue imposing a tight siege and targeting civilians, properties and vital civil facilities which people cannot live without.