Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Israel cuts off fuel and blocks Humanitarian Aid to Gaza
Gaza – Ma'an – Israel tightened its grip on the Gaza Strip on Sunday by limiting supplies of fuel into the territory. Nehro Hisamawi, the director of the distribution center at Nahal Oz, Gaza's principle entry point for liquid fuels, said Israeli authorities allowed only 300,000 liters of diesel fuel into Gaza, down from the usual level of 350,000. Hisamawi said the 14 percent reduction could be the beginning of a gradual policy of deprivation of fuel. The Gaza Strip's 1.5 million residents are almost completely dependent on imports of fuel and other supplies which pass through Israeli-controlled border crossings. The United Nations has warned Israel not to punish the people of the Gaza Strip collectively.
On Thursday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved a plan to cut off electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip in what the Israeli government says is a strategy to prevent Palestinian fighters from constructing and launching projectiles into Israel.Barak's press spokesperson told reporters that reductions in fuel supplies would begin Sunday and power cut would begin over the coming days.
Israeli authorities have already cut electricity supplies to the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun over the past week. The spokesperson of Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense Minister, told Agance France Presse that reduction of fuel supply will start on Sunday, and that electricity will be cut for intervals starting the coming days. The Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz meanwhile reported a more dramatic reduction in fuel supplies, quoting Mojahed Salama, the head of the Palestinian Petrol Agency. Salama said Israel reduced supplies of diesel and benzene by 40 to 50 percent.
The Israeli Defense Ministry denied making any cutbacks.
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israel's plan to cut electricity and fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip will worsen an already dire humanitarian situation, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator said Saturday.
"The squeeze was tightening all the time," said John Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, noting that while the UN had been able to get more than 3,000 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza in July, only 1,508 truckloads made it through last month. Israel has kept closed Gaza's main crossing point for goods, Karni, since June, Holmes said, with only one conveyor belt available twice a week.
One of the two smaller crossing points for goods, Sufa, is also expected to be closed by the end of this month. The major crossing point for people, Rafah, has also been closed since June. Holmes also said the number of Palestinian patients allowed to cross into Israel for health care had fallen from 40 a day in July to less than five a day in September.
"Denial of freedom of movement for medical reasons would appear to be a breach of international humanitarian law," he said. He called on Israel to lift its economic blockade on Gaza and relax its restrictions on humanitarian aid, in part to improve the chances of progress at Israeli-Palestinian talks scheduled to take place in the United States next month. Given the conditions inside both Gaza and the West Bank, the population increasingly depends on outside aid to survive, he said. "That is not a good situation for their livelihoods, their dignity and the possibility of their participating in any kind of peace process."