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Humanitarian Situation in Gaza: Clarifiactions – Raji Sourani



This article is a response to a
report published in the Irish Times, titled
Israel Allows Building Materials
into Gaza.
The article portrays the true picture in the Gaza Strip, under
the light of the applicable international law and recommends steps for
improving the ground situation.


A report carried in the Irish
Times Israel Allows Building Materials into Gaza states
“Israel has always allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza and allowed a variety of
other products from 2010”. While technically this is true, it misrepresents the
reality of the situation- Israel’s illegal actions relating to the closure of
the Gaza Strip in the first instance resulting in what the International
Committee of the Red Cross has publicly referred to as “a collective punishment
imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international
humanitarian law.”


International law considers the
Occupying Power to be responsible for all branches of public order and civil
life. This requirement, first codified in Article 43 of the Hague Regulations,
places a specific obligation on the Occupying Power with respect to, inter
alia, the maintenance and provision of infrastructure, health, education,
quality of life, shelter, and public works (including sewage treatment, power
and water); in other words, the material conditions under which the population
of the occupied territory live. Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva
Convention explicitly require that the Occupying Power should – to the fullest
extent of the means available to it – ensure the supply of food and medicines,
while ensuring and maintaining the health system. This requirement places the
Occupying Power under a definite obligation to maintain at a reasonable level
the material conditions of the occupied population.


Following the democratic election
of the Hamas government in 2006, Israel tightened its already existing closure
of Gaza, depriving people there of some of the most basic requirements of a
decent life. Severe restrictions placed on the import and export of goods,
including fuel, food, construction materials, and medical supplies have led to
shortages of essential items and materials; increasing unemployment, poverty,
and aid dependency; and the de-development of the Gaza Strip. Over 80% of
Gaza’s population, more than half of whom are children, are currently reliant
on food aid from the UN, while living and environmental conditions are
deteriorating year on year.


The Government of Israel has
stated that it is enacting the closure the Gaza Strip as a form of economic
warfare: “damaging the enemy’s economy is in and of itself a legitimate means
in warfare and a relevant consideration even while deciding to allow the entry
of relief consignments.”


Through the provision of aid,
international organizations are underwriting the cost of the occupation and the
illegal closure of the Gaza Strip has become institutionalized.


The siege of Gaza must be lifted
totally, not partially and in accordance with international law. In order to
facilitate long-term development and recovery, political will and political
action are required. All potential avenues that accord with humanitarian and
human rights law must be pursued in order to ensure the State of Israel’s
compliance with international law. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
calls on the taxpayers of the international community to pressurize their
governments to lobby on behalf of the Palestinian people, and to ensure that
their money is no longer wasted by governments willing to fund a school, but
not willing to take action in response to that school’s destruction, or willing
to provide food aid, but not to take action to allow for the development of a
sustainable economy.


Raji Sourani is
the Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), an
dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the
rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory (OPT). Raji an internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer and is
the Joint Laureate, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Human Rights;
Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, 1985, 1988, International 
Commission of Jurists EXCO Member, IDAL EXCO Member. PCHR is supported by Irish
Aid, Trocaire and Oxfam amongst others.