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@ 18.00 GMT on March 26th 1996

CLOSURE UPDATE NO. 4

Report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights,

marking one month of total closure imposed on the Occupied Territories by Israel

This is the fourth in a series of weekly updates published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, documenting the effects of the ongoing total closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

Since February 25th 1996 Israel has imposed a total closure on the Occupied Territories, including those areas under Palestinian jurisdiction, imprisoning three million Palestinians in small areas of land. The local economies are devastated and living conditions are becoming increasingly intolerable. This systematic policy of closure constitutes the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

Recent Israeli claims that it has eased the closure impress international public opinion, but the easing has been so slight that there has been no alleviation of the suffering of the 1,000,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The effects of the closure, which were documented in our previous Updates, have intensified.

Commercial activity is paralysed, causing drastic losses in all sectors of the economy; access to the sea is severely restricted; basic foodstuffs have to be rationed and medicines are in short supply; Palestinians, including senior officials, continue to be denied the freedom to move in and out of the Gaza Strip; Palestinians are prevented from reaching their places of work in Israel, and there has been a drastic rise in unemployment.

The information contained in this Update has been provided by the staff of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, who have monitored and documented daily, the devastating effects of total closure on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

This Update is based on an Arabic version, and where there are inconsistencies the Arabic version should be considered the original.

1. OBSTRUCTION OF COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY

Israel continues to restrict commercial activity with the Gaza Strip causing drastic losses for local producers. Despite recent announcements by Israel that the closure would be eased for commercial transactions, exports are still totally obstructed, and because Israel allows only very limited imports via Karni Outlet, which are not sufficient to satisfy basic requirements, emergency arrangements have been made at the Rafah border so that basic foodstuffs can be imported from Egypt.

I. Agricultural sector

Israel totally restricts the export of agricultural produce from Gaza, to and via Israel. The agricultural sector in Gaza depends upon the export of 70% of its produce. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates the following losses since the closure was imposed on February 25th:

Daily losses: US$ 3,176,000

Total losses: US$ 95,280,000

Gaza produces 1,000,000 flowers daily. Since February 25th only three truck-loads, a total of only 3,550,000 flowers, have been allowed across the Rafah border into Egypt for export to Holland.

The Rafah border is not well-suited for commercial transit, and is being used only on the basis of special arrangements since the closure. In addition Israeli soldiers have been reported using steel bars to break open the boxes in which flowers are transported. Much damage has been caused, resulting in a 70% decline in the price of the flowers in the Dutch market.

Over 60,000 tonnes of citrus fruits cannot be harvested by Palestinian farmers because it cannot be sold in Gaza or exported; and over 2,000 tonnes, which was prepared for export has to be stored.

ii. Dairy and meat produce

Losses in this sector are estimated at US $ 3,400,000 Since the closure.

Of these losses the chicken farming sector has estimated losses of US $1,800,000. Due to the shortage in animal feed farmers have been forced to sell over 750,000 chickens, each weighting less than 1 kilogram; the regular marketing weight is approximately 1.8 kilogram.

The Ministry of Agriculture states that egg production has declined by around 50% of the monthly average at this time of the year, and milk production by 40%; resulting in a dramatic increase in milk and egg prices.

iii. Crisis for local industry

The crisis in industrial sectors in Gaza are deepening as a result of the closure.

Israel continues to prevent export of industrial goods form Gaza, and raw materials cannot be imported. Many Palestinian factories have closed and thousands of workers in this sector are added to the already high unemployment figure.

The construction sector is paralysed because of a shortage in basic building materials such as cement. Since February 25th 1996 Israel has allowed only 300 tonnes of cement into Gaza, through Karni; the daily requirement of cement in Gaza is around 3,000 tonnes.

The following closures are amongst those which have resulted in industry:

- 25 tile-making factories,

- 12 concrete-making factories,

- 120 brick-making factories.

The total number of workers left unemployed by the closure of these factories alone is around 2,000; and 200 transport vehicles for this sector are left redundant.

 

2. FISHERIES SECTOR IS SEVERELY DAMAGED

The fisheries sector is a vital sector of the local economy. Over 4,000 Palestinians depend on it for employment.

On March 8th the Israeli authorities closed off access to the sea, prohibiting Palestinian fishermen from fishing in the zone designated by the Cairo Agreement, which guarantees access for Palestinian fishermen up to 20 nautical miles from the Gaza shoreline.

On March 11th Israeli authorities allowed access to the sea for Palestinian fishermen in a far reduced area which ended at six nautical miles (10.9 kilometres) from the shoreline. However, we have received reports from fishermen that if they go beyond three nautical miles from the shoreline they are shot at by Israeli gunboats.

The Fishing Association in Gaza states that this very limited area does not provide sufficient resources, and that catches are difficult to find.

On March 22nd Israel announced that it would extend the limit to 12 nautical miles. However due to stormy weather conditions fishermen have not been able to go the sea; so that the actual extent of the limit is as yet untested.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights calls for the lifting of the sea closure and for Israel to cease violating the Cairo Agreement. The 20 nautical mile area which the Agreement provides for Palestinian use is not granted by Israel and it is not within Israeli authority to deprive it. Israel is obliged to abide by all provisions of the Agreement.

3. HIGH RATES OF UNEMPLOYMENT

The Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Labour states that unemployment in Gaza has increased to 65% since the closure.

14.4% of this increase is attributable to the Gazan workforce, who usually travel to work in Israel, being prevented from doing so since the closure. 30% is attributable to those who are left redundant as a result of the paralysis in the local economy of Gaza.

The Palestinian Ministry of Labour estimates the following losses resulting from unemployment:

Workers who work in Israel US $ 750,000, daily

Workers in local sectors US $ 291,000, daily

Total losses from unemployment US $ 1,041,000, daily

4. SHORTAGES IN BASIC FOODSTUFFS

All foodstuffs which have to be imported to Gaza are in short supply. The Palestinian people now have to live with the added humiliation of obtaining flour through a ration system.

The flour crisis began on March 5th 1996, when all reserves in Gaza were exhausted. Gazan requirements of flour are around 250 tonnes daily. The total figure imported between February 25th and March 22nd 1996 was only 3,113.5 tonnes. Of this amount the Israeli authorities allowed 1,418.5 tonnes to come from Egypt via the Rafah border, and the rest from Israel through the Karni Outlet since March 13th.

The shortage of flour is so severe that the Palestinian National Authority has imposed a ration system and flour is distributed according to Identification Cards. Palestinians wail daily for many hours, sometimes over-night, in order to obtain their ration.

The following table indicates the amounts of flour and sugar which have been imported via Rafah:

March 7th - 23rd 1996

 

DATE

FLOUR IMPORTS (in tonnes)

SUGAR IMPORTS (in tonnes)

DATE

FLOUR IMPORTS (in tonnes)

SUGAR IMPORTS (in tonnes)

07/03/96

30

18

17/03/96

132

0

10/03/96

63

0

18/03/96

60

0

11/03/96

133

0

19/03/96

143

0

12/04/96

175

0

20/03/96

153

0

13/03/96

125

0

21/03/96

176

0

14/03/96

116

0

22/03/96

112.5

0

     

23/03/96

0

0

     

TOTAL

1,418.5

18

The Israeli authorities have allowed limited amounts of foodstuffs to be imported via Karni Outlet from Israel since March 13th. However, these are subject to strict security arrangements.

March 13th - 23rd 1996

Amounts are in tonnes unless otherwise stated.

ITEM

13th

14th

17th

19th

20th

21st

22nd

23rd

TOTAL

Flour

133

196

126

313

272

655

0

0

1695

Sugar

0

27

0

45

21

58

0

0

151

Animal Feed

40

86

83

37

206

296

141

0

889

Rice

0

0

20

0

34

0

0

0

54

Dairy Products

0

18

18

9

21

12

4

0

82

Oil

0

0

0

0

0

19

0

0

19

Tea

0

0

230*

0

0

0

0

0

230*

Salt

0

0

0

0

37

36

0

0

73

Butter

0

0

0

32

18

0

0

0

50

Frozen Fish

0

0

0

0

23

0

0

0

23

Biscuits

0

0

204

2

0

0

0

0

206

Onions

0

0

0

0

30

0

0

0

30

Corn

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

40

40

Chlorine

0

0

0

0

96^

0

0

0

96^

Medicine

0

0

0

0

0

0

100#

0

100#

Source: Palestinian Authority Ministry of Trade and Industry

* This measurement is in packets not toones. The weight of each packet is not known.

^ This measurement is in barrels.

# This measurement is in cartons.

Where is no date there was no import of any foodstuffs through Karni.

5. HEALTH CONDITIONS DETERIORATE FURTHER

The Gaza Strip has a dearth of medical facilities, as a result of 27 years of Israeli occupation, and thus for anything more than basic medical treatment it is necessary to transfer patients to the West Bank, Israel, Egypt or Jordan.

I. Preventing Gazan Patients from obtaining vital medical treatment

Patients who seek medical treatment in Israel, West bank or Jordan must apply to the Joint Liaison Committee of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority for a special travel permit. Such permits require Israeli authorisation.

Since the imposition of the closure on February 25th Israel has refused to issue these permits and so far 3 patients have died.

Out of 98 cases, submitted to Israel through the Joint Liaison Committee for permits to go to Israeli hospitals, Israel has responded t only 4: on March 21st Israel allowed 3 patients to go to Israeli hospitals; a fourth was allowed to travel to al Moqased Hospital in East Jerusalem. Israel allowed only 10 patients to travel via Israel to Jordan, and many other patients are still denied permits.

ii. Restricting the import of medicines

Israel restricts the import of sufficient medicines to Gaza. Reports suggest shortages in antibiotics, ventolin solution and childrens nutritional supplements.

6. RESTRICTIONS ON THE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Israeli authorities continue to deny Palestinians freedom of movement, even between areas under Palestinian jurisdiction. Since February 25th Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been prevented from travelling between the autonomous areas, even though passage between the two is only feasible across Israeli territory. The freedom of movement of Palestinian senior officials is also restricted.

Israeli authorities recently prevented Moawia Al Masri a member of the newly elected Legislative Council, and a representative from Nablus, from travelling to Gaza in order to participate in the first Working Session of the Council, on March 21st.

Other member of the Council from the West Bank were issued with permits which were valid for only 12 hours, within which time they had to travell to Gaza, participate in the Session and return to the West Bank.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns this Israeli intervention in Palestinian internal affairs, and stresses the following:

a. Israeli claims that the Palestinian National Authority is responsible for the security situation, and its demands that it must take action to prevent further suicide bombers, is inconsistent with its obstruction of the work of the Legislative Council; as this restricts the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to deal with this delicate situation in a appropriate way.

b. The Legislative Council is considered to be one of the most significant outcomes of the Declaration of Principles, signed between Israel and the PLO in September 1993. Obstructing its members from participating in its activities is not consistent with the spirit of the agreement, the peace process, or the development of a democratic system in the Palestinian autonomous areas.

c. Although the Palestinian National Authority has only limited autonomy, its Legislative Council has a unique status, and its members should be treated with respect and dignity. They should enjoy special immunities, as do members of parliament and government in other countries, to enable them to conduct their work more freely. Due to the unique circumstances between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, it is not sufficient that members of the Legislative Council enjoy only Palestinian immunity; in addition they require Israeli immunity.

d. Preventing a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council form participating in its first Working Session is a worrying indictor for the future. Israel must not be allowed to influence the activities of the Legislative Council which is a democratically elected body.

Israeli intervention in the work of the Legislative Council undermines Palestinian self-government at this early stage. Foreign governments and international organisations, who enthusiastically demonstrated their interest in the development of democracy in the development of democracy in the Palestinian autonomous areas at the elections on January 20th 1996, should intervene to prevent Israel from further undermining the element in the achievement of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

The oppressive Israeli policy of total closure has been imposed against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories for 1 month now. This measure constitutes collective punishment; it has not served Israeli security purposes, but rather has resulted in the intensification of the citizens of the Gaza Strip, and a drastic deterioration in their living conditions and fledgling economy, causing severe and long term damage. The Palestinian people face an uncertain future.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns the total closure. We warn of the tragic and disastrous economic, humanitarian and political consequences. The Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people and its National Authority undermines the spirit and objectives of the peace process. It is unacceptable that the Palestinian people are being forced to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process through such extreme suffering.

ADDENDUM: In Update No.3 on page 4 the fishing zone is 6 nautical miles and not 3.5 nautical miles as was stated.

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