* The Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip
The Israeli Siege on the Gaza Strip:
During the years of 2007 and 2008, a suffocating military siege and closure continued to be imposed on the Gaza Strip, intensifying the impoverishment and misery of the civilian population with unemployment as high as 80%. In July of 2007 more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians returning to Gaza from Egypt were refused entry by the occupying Power for nearly three weeks and were stranded at the Rafah border terminal without access to sufficient food, medical care and proper hygiene facilities. Israeli occupying forces continued to decrease fuel deliveries to the strip, impeding United Nations Agencies, hospitals and emergency vehicles to provide assistance to the people of Gaza. The lack of fuel has even caused the main Gaza power plant to shut down entirely, deepening the already dire humanitarian crisis.
In the context of an occupation, the occupying Power has the obligation to ensure that the civilian population in the occupied territory has access to sufficient food and medical supplies (Art. 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention), as well as the obligation to maintain medical services (Art. 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). If the occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes and shall facilitate them by all means at its disposal. (Art. 59 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.) Unfortunately, Israel has not been upholding these customary laws, in turn; the occupied Gaza Strip is currently in the worst humanitarian situation it has been since beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967.
The Palestinian death toll in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, has been rising rapidly as a result of the brutal military assaults being carried out by Israel, the occupying Power, against the civilian population under its occupation. The situation on the ground is dramatically deteriorating as the violence escalates, the number of dead and injured mounts and fear and panic spread throughout the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, which has already endured so much suffering and is barely surviving under conditions of severe duress resulting from Israel’s ongoing and unlawful closure of all of the Territory’s border crossings, its obstruction of vital humanitarian supplies, including food and medicines, and of other necessary and basic goods and materials, its reduction of fuel and electricity supplies and its incessant lethal military campaign.
In deliberate and flagrant breach of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, Israel continues to collectively punish the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip by means of the closure as well as by means of military reprisals against persons and property and by acts of terror and intimidation. Such actions are clearly prohibited by international law and are being committed by the occupying Power on a scale and scope amounting to war crimes. The humanitarian calamity in the Gaza Strip continues to deepen as a result and the carnage and destruction are perpetuating a vicious and bloody cycle of violence that threatens to completely destabilize the situation and derail the fragile peace process.
Despite repeated warnings and appeals to the international community, including the United Nations Security Council, no action has been taken to stem this cycle of violence and Israel continues its deadly rampage throughout the Gaza Strip. In just one month’s time – from 1 February until 1 March 2008 – Israel, the occupying Power, killed more than 126 Palestinians, including 19 innocent children and several women and many members of the same families. The children killed have included infant babies, ages 2 days old and 5 months old, three young boys, brothers from the same family, ages 8, 11 and 14, and several other innocent children at play or in their homes when death cruelly struck them, as well as an entire family, including a mother, father and their three young children, who were killed in their home in Al-Bureij refugee camp in an Israeli missile strike. Palestinian families are being devastated and their homes, communities and lives are being continuously destroyed.
On 1 March of 2008, alone, at least 60 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military attacks in the northern Gaza Strip, including at least 5 children and three women. The hospitals in Gaza, which were already facing critical shortages of medical supplies and decaying equipment as a result of the ongoing Israeli siege, exerted all efforts possible under such circumstances to treat those wounded in these attacks. Additionally, the Israeli occupying forces continued to target medical rescue teams and prevent ambulances from evacuating the wounded, which resulted in even more deaths that could have been prevented.