Wednesday 1st of February 2023

a crime against humanity .....

a crime against humanity .....

A humanitarian crisis is underway as the Gaza Strip's only power plant began to shut down on Sunday & the tiny coastal territory entered its third full day without shipments of vital food and fuel supplies due to Israel's punitive sanctions.

The Gaza Strip's power plant has completely shut down on Sunday because it no longer has the fuel needed to keep running. One of the plant's two electricity-generating turbines had already shut down by noon.

This will drastically reduce output to 25 or 30 megawatts, down from the 65 megawatts the plant produces under normal conditions. By Sunday evening the plant will shut down completely, leaving large swaths of the Gaza Strip in darkness.

Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer be generating any electricity at all.

“We have asked the Israeli government to reverse its decision and to supply fuel to operate the power plant”, Dr. Kittaneh said. “We have talked to the Israeli humanitarian coordination in their Ministry of Energy [National Infrastructure]. We say this is totally Israel’s responsibility, and that reducing the fuel supplies until the plant had to shut down will affect not only the electrical system but the water supply, and the entire infrastructure in Gaza – everything.”

After months of increasingly harsh sanctions, Israel imposed a total closure on the Strip's border crossings, even preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Israeli government says the closure is punishment for an ongoing barrage of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian economist Hasan Abu Ramadan said the current humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip will be deepened by the blockade on fuel and food supplies. He warned that Gaza Strip could go from a situation of deep poverty to all out famine, disease, and malnutrition.

Abu Ramadan said that more than 80% of the Strip's 1.5 million residents have been surviving with the help of food aid from international organizations such as UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.

Most international actors in the region believe there already is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, who said at a press conference at UNHQ in New York on Friday that: "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be justified, even by those rocket attacks".

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed particular concern, in a statement issued later on Friday through his spokesperson, about the "decision by Israel to close the crossing points in between Gaza and Israel used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such action cuts off the population from much-needed fuel supplies used to pump water and generate electricity to homes and hospitals".

The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, John Dugard, also issued a much sharper statement on Friday, saying that Israel must have foreseen the loss of life and injury to many nearby civilians when it targeted the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City.

This, and the killings of other Palestinians during the week, plus the closures, "raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its Commitment to the peace process", Dugard said. He said it violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law: that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.

Where to begin? The crippling electricity shortages that effect hospitals as well as civilians? The air strikes & on-going daily bombings by the Israeli army, with their indiscriminate targeting of civilians & police stations? Israel ’s non-accidental, enforced starvation of 1.5 million people by closing off ALL borders & not allowing in even UN aid, let alone basic medicinal, food & construction needs?

Shortages of fuel have re-surfaced in Gaza: most of Gaza has no electricity & even more importantly, the shortage of medicine in Palestinian hospitals continues to increase, with the Ministry of Health reporting a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

Or should we begin with the bomb which just hit a wedding close to the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City, with 15 apartment buildings within the bomb’s target range? One woman was killed & 47 others were injured – mostly children & women who had been inside their homes or playing on the street!! Scenes of children injured, bleeding & crying just moments after they had been enjoying a wedding celebration in a Gaza wedding hall…a horrific sight likely to go without mention of that in most news sources.

The injured were evacuated to Al Shifa hospital, where it was then hard to find enough beds & blankets for them, with children crammed three to four on a bed due to overcrowding.

Earlier Friday, Israel closed its border with the Gaza Strip to all traffic in what officials say is response to cross-border rocket fire, preventing even UN humanitarian supplies from getting in. The decision came after Israel vowed to broaden its military campaign against Gaza militants who have fired more than 110 home made rockets at southern Israel in the last three days resulting in the injury of two Israelis.

In contrast, 19 Palestinians were killed in one day last Wednesday during another Israeli attack, this one targeting the eastern part of Gaza City .

These are the latest attacks, but not the only: since the visit of bushit, the great ‘peacemaker’ & Zionist enabler.

In that 74 hour period, Israel has killed 39 people & injured more than 90. Those numbers, which could again go up at any minute, were confirmed by Khaled Radi, the Ministry of Health spokesman in Gaza. Radi also said that Israel is using internationally illegal weapons, which makes it impossible for people to identify the bodies of their relatives as they have been rendered unrecognizable.

Among the tens killed were a 13 year old boy & his father & uncle, killed in what Israel claims was “a mistake”. Another Israeli attack killed a mother, Maryam Al Rahel & her son, Mohammed, who were on a donkey cart when an Israeli warplane bombed them. Their bodies, like so many others, were rendered into small pieces of flesh, scattered everywhere!

Of course, Israeli government propagandist, Shlomo Dror says that: “It's unacceptable that people in Sderot are living in fear every day & people in the Gaza Strip are living life as usual.”

I wonder exactly what he might consider “life as usual”? For if he means it is normal that over 35 civilians should be killed in 4 days; an entire population should be on the verge of starvation & forced to shiver through winter nights, without electricity or sufficient blankets; that hospitals & medical centres should be forced to shut down or operate at sub-par capability & without needed medicine, food, blankets & even space,…the list goes on…well then yes, Palestinians are living life as usual.

Israel is systematically destroying the Gaza Strip & the lives of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there, but never is Israel's collective ravaging of a civilian population denounced for what it plainly is: a war crime.

The 45 km long, 5-12 km wide Gaza Strip is probably the largest open-air prison in the world today. Here's how Israeli journalist Amira Hass described it: On three sides, it is enclosed by a barbed wire fences, concrete walls & military lookout towers; Israeli navy ships seal off the coast. Israel has imposed a near-total blockade since 2006. Seven gates connect the Gaza Strip to the world beyond it, but the gates are sealed. In the sky, unmanned aircraft & hot-air balloons photograph everything that happens in the cage below.

Israel's total control of entry points, coastline & airspace & its refusal to permit normal movement of people & goods into & out of the Gaza Strip make a mockery of its "disengagement" from Gaza. It is now more firmly in control of Gaza than it was when Israeli settlers still lived there & residents are convinced that the removal of the settlers in fact gave the military a freer hand to wreak havoc. Today, Israel imposes what Karen Koning AbuZayd, commissioner-general of UNWRA, describes as a "feudal siege."

The Palestinian economy, steadily undermined since Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967, is in tatters.

Since September 2000, Israel has levelled about 9,112 acres of land, including approximately 13% of Gaza's agricultural land. Israel prevents Gazan products from reaching markets & it prohibits the entry of raw materials or means of production, resulting in the closure of 95% of factories, according to a November 2007 report from the Palestinian Federation of Industries. Because the borders with Israel are sealed, labourers are unable to secure work in Israel. A 2008 UNRWA report puts Gaza's unemployment rate at just above 37%; the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics puts it at nearly 40%.

When Israel decided in September 2007 to label Gaza a "hostile entity," it greatly reduced the amount of electricity & fuel it allows to reach Gaza, thereby plunging residents into darkness & cold for hours each day. And now they are dealing with these shortages during an unusually cold winter. The lack of electricity means that water pumps won't work, so households will have limited access to water & refrigeration is sporadic. Many food items are unaffordable to residents & a high percentage of the population relies on rations from relief organizations.

The impact of the siege on health care is disastrous. The World Health Organization has reported that chronic malnutrition & dietary-related diseases are slowly increasing: low birth weights; anaemia in 68% of children age 1 year & younger & stunted growth in 13.2% of children under age 5. Other health problems include preventable diseases caused by unclean water; inadequate sewage processing; a lack of chemotherapy for cancer patients & medicines used to control chronic cardiac & other conditions. Permission to leave the area for medical treatment is typically denied.

The UN World Food Program initiative called Emergency Food Needs Assessment reported that 1.1 million Gaza residents depend on outside food assistance. As much as 70% of Gaza residents are food insecure, which means they can't be sure of getting access to adequate supplies of nutritious & safe food.

Think of what Israel's siege means for the group most profoundly affected: the 61% of the population under age 19. Their world consists of 365 square kilometres. They can tell the difference between fighter plane types simply by sound & chances are they have experienced hunger; for some, the cognitive damage caused by malnourishment during their formative years is irreparable. They may or may not know that the sleep deprivation they experience night after night when Israeli planes breaking the sound barrier is itself a form of torture. Many suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder; Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad El Sarraj reported in 2004 that he sees "severely disturbed children every day, incontinent 12-year-olds, children who cannot stop shaking... terrible cases." They cannot fail to have noticed that their parents are often afraid & that they are powerless to protect them.

Between September 2000 & November 2007, about 1,804 Palestinian civilians in Gaza were killed by the Israeli army & 11,300 were wounded; 2,931 homes were completely destroyed & 2,848 homes were partially destroyed. Because 71% of the population is refugees, the probability is high that those made homeless by Israel's periodic rampages were losing their homes for the second or third time. Gazan households typically consist of 6-7 people, so the number of people affected by a single death, an injury, or a house demolition is huge.

Israel claims that its criminal siege is necessitated by the crude home-made missiles fired by Palestinian militants on the Israeli town of Sderot, that have killed 12 Israelis in 6 years. The provocation to Sderot (in itself a response to Israel's ongoing assassination policy & sustained assault on the Gaza Strip) does not justify Israel's policy of entrapment & enforced pauperization of an entire population. (If the killing of 12 Israelis over several years justifies the havoc wreaked on more than a million people, what would be an appropriate retribution for Gazans to seek from Israelis?)

Israel knows that its repressive tactics will not halt the missiles lobbed at Sderot & anyway, that is not really its primary objective. Israel's siege is a barbaric way of making 1.5 million Palestinians pay for the existence & popularity of Hamas.

The little shrub, bushit, apparently agrees with the Israeli argument that power confers privileges that supersede international law & human rights, including the right to kill. During a January 10, 2008 press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he in effect gave Israel a green light to do as it pleases in Gaza by foolishly stating: "Hamas, which I felt ran on a campaign of, we're going to improve your lives through better education & better health, have delivered nothing but misery."

Thus the State clamps the arteries of life for 1.5 million Gazans and describes its action as an economic war. Here it infringes a basic principle of the international laws concerning warfare, which distinguish between the civilian population and the armed forces. One main purpose of these laws is to shield civilians from the battlefield and mitigate the effects war can have on them. The lawyers for the State Attorney do not dispute this principle. Rather they would limit it to strictly military operations. Cutting the supply of electricity or gasoline is not a strictly military operation. In an economic war, they hold, the principle does not apply. Following this logic to its absurd conclusion, we find that it is forbidden to blow up a civilian installation, but it is permissible to disable it by cutting off raw materials. It is forbidden to blow up a power plant, but it's OK to turn off the electricity.

This is not to imply that Israel abides by the law in its strictly military decisions. In summer of 2006, for example, it did blow up the Palestinian power plant in Gaza, raising the Strip's dependence on itself for electricity—the same electricity that it today proposes to cut.

The state turns international law on its head. Various provisions regulate civilian supplies in wartime, with the aim of keeping the situation from reaching the threshold of a humanitarian crisis. Israel cites these provisions but interprets them as allowing it to harm civilians as long as it stops short of that threshold, defined by it.

What is the humanitarian threshold in Israel's view? The blockade of Gaza has been going on at various levels for years. Since Hamas ousted Fatah there in the summer of 2007, the shipment of goods to the Strip has been restricted almost totally to basic foods, medicines, medical equipment, cooking gas, gasoline & electricity.

Karni, the main checkpoint for transfer of goods, earlier functioned in a spotty manner, but today it is completely shut. The code for importing goods to Gaza has been deleted from the computers of Israel's Customs Authority, which (according to the Paris Protocol) is supposed to collect the tariffs. The supply of fuel (except cooking gas) has been cut (without court interference). Most of the industrial plants are closed for lack of raw materials & replacement parts. Hospitals, water & sewage services have been operating for the last year & a half (since Israel blew up the power plant) by means of emergency generators. Because replacement parts are lacking, the infrastructure is running down & there is increasing danger of disaster. A harbinger was the bursting of the cesspool wall in Um al-Nassar last year, where five people drowned in a river of sewage.

According to statistics from the summer of 2007, before Israel hardened its measures, 87% of Gazans lived belpw the poverty line, which was reckoned at $2.40 per day. Already then there were perceived shortages in basic products & food prices rose by tens of percentage points. According to figures of the World Food Program, 85% of Gazans depend on aid to purchase food.

In the view of Israel, however, the existing supply of goods is above what the law obligates it to allow & the supplies of electricity & gasoline are even twice the minimum required. Below the humanitarian threshold as defined by it, Israel includes little more than hospitals run by generators, ambulances, supply trucks & minimal public transport.

Israel claims in court that it has the right to choose the countries it trades with, as if Gaza were just one independent state among the many. It views a cut in electricity to Gaza as not essentially different from, say, a cut in the sale of diamonds to Spain. This claim conceals the self-righteous notion that Israel, having disengaged, is no longer responsible for the Strip. But who presides over Gaza's borders? Who rules its air space? Whose jets & attack helicopters are those up there? Who controls Gaza's sea, preventing the erection of an independent harbour?

Gaza's economic dependence on Israel is the fruit of a deliberate policy that has been in effect for decades. Here as well as in the West Bank, Israel stymied any fledgling industry that might compete with it. It developed Gaza's dependence on it for electricity & gas. It turned the Gazans into a cheap labour force to serve Israeli industry - at first by having them commute into Israel & later by developing an industrial area at Checkpoint Erez. Israel also benefited from Gazan dependence on its products. When Karni was closed, among the loudest protestors were Israeli farmers. According to reports from the summer of 2007, about a fourth of the fruit grown in Israel was marketed in the Occupied Territories.

Yet Israel's conceptual change about Gaza is not consistent. Disengaged or not, it can't resist the temptation to exploit the Strip's resources. Parallel to the discussion on cutting energy supplies, there is another petition before the High Court that also concerns energy - but here the supply would go from Gaza to Israel. In this petition, two corporate groups are battling for an Israeli license to pump natural gas from the reservoir off Gaza's coast, a reservoir that - if Gaza belonged to a Palestinian state - would be in its territorial waters. The pumped gas is slated to become a major energy source in Israel's economy. Did the Justices happen to recall another case they are hearing, in which the State says it no longer occupies Gaza? If so, they haven't indicated this. Needless to say, no Justice cried in astonishment: "By what right do you intend to exploit the gas reserves of the Gaza Strip? This is against the provisions of international law, which forbid an occupying power from exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory for its own use!"

Israel's criminal policies in Gaza and the Lebanon are the same. In southern Lebanon too (if to a lesser degree), Israel for years used the population as a cheap commuting workforce & as consumers of its products, all in the framework of the so-called "Good Fence" policy. This ended, as in Gaza, in a unilateral withdrawal (May 2000). Israel's interest in controlling the water that flows its way from southern Lebanon brings to mind its interest in Gaza's gas reserves.

Its attack on Lebanon in 2006 also has its Gazan parallels. In both places Israel learned that it has no military answer to the threat of rockets in the hands of militias. With Hezbollah as with Hamas, Israel refused to negotiate. In Lebanon too, it hesitated to open a broad ground war & rightly so. It learned that it cannot rule a hostile area in the face of attrition from guerrillas. When it undertook military action in Lebanon, the weakness of its own armed forces became apparent. Of course, this weakness derives from the moral corruption of the military & political leadership. The war revealed an impossible combination: on the one hand, the leadership's overall contempt for human life, and, on the other, Israeli society's unwillingness to accept battle casualties.In both cases, Gaza & Lebanon, Israel has made indiscriminate war from the air on civilians while hesitating to commit ground forces.

In both it has sought to destroy the economic infrastructure & reduce the civilian population to primitive conditions. By harming them, it was thought, you could get them to pressure their leaders & thus make political gains. This notion proved false in Lebanon, as in Gaza. The Israeli attacks amount to an expression of weakness, but the price will not be paid by those who launch them, rather by civilians on both sides.

War crimes have become so commonplace in the Gaza Strip that the international community doesn't bother to raise even formal objections.

So, a population is being suffocated as the world pretends not to notice.

tearing down another wall .....

Masked gunmen used explosives to blow holes in the Gaza Strip's border fence early today, enabling thousands of Palestinians to pour into Egypt to buy food, fuel and other supplies that had been cut off because of an Israeli blockade, witnesses said. 

Egyptian and Palestinian border guards did not resist the mass crossing at the Rafah terminal. Witnesses said Palestinian security officials later closed some of the breaches but kept two open, allowing Gazans to cross into Egypt and return with milk, cigarettes and plastic bottles of fuel. 

Hundreds of Gaza women had crashed a gate at the same border Tuesday to protest Egypt's cooperation with Israeli sanctions. They were turned back during a riot that injured 35 people and curtailed a resumption of food aid to the impoverished territory. 

Gaza Border Breached, Thousands Flood Into Egypt