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Coordinación de Activismo

Gaza reduced to bare survival

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is having ever more serious consequences
on its population. In the past month the supply of humanitarian aid and basic
necessities to Gaza has been reduced from a trickle to an intermittent drip.

The blockade has become tighter than ever since the breakdown of a five-and-a-
half-month ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants on 5
November.

"The Israeli authorities might be allowing through enough for the survival of
Gaza's population, but this is nowhere near enough for the 1.5 million
inhabitants of Gaza to live with dignity," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty
International's researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

As supplies are being further withheld, most mills have shut down because they
have little or no grain. People who have long been deprived of many food items
now cannot even find bread at times.

Reserves of food have long been depleted and the meagre quantities allowed into
Gaza are not even enough to meet the immediate needs. Families never know if
they will have food for their children the following day.

When people do have food, they generally have no cooking gas or electricity with
which to cook it. Last week, less than 10 per cent of the weekly requirement of
cooking gas was allowed into Gaza.

“This is entirely a man-made crisis. Desperately needed supplies are languishing
in aid agencies’ warehouses a few kilometres away, even though they’re ready to
be dispatched,” said Donatella Rovera. "The only obstacle is a gate that is kept
locked by the Israeli army. There is no acceptable reason to deny passage to
essential humanitarian aid and necessities"

Shortages of fuel, electricity and spare parts are causing water and sanitation
infrastructure and other crucial services to deteriorate a bit more every day.
Eighty per cent of the wells are now only functioning at reduced capacity and
water supply is only available for a few hours every few days.

At times when water is available, there is no electricity or fuel to pump it into
apartment buildings. Shortages of chlorine increase the risk of waterborne
diseases.

Routine blackouts disrupt every aspect of life for everyone. Hospitals are
struggling to power life-saving machinery and it is ever more difficult to maintain
laundry and other essential services.

Even patients in need of medical treatment unavailable in Gaza, are often denied

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Coordinación de Activismo

passage out of Gaza. Scores of people have died in the past year when they
could have been saved if only they had been allowed to travel.

Karima Abu Dalal, a 34-year-old mother of five young children, died on 25
November. She suffered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph
glands that is curable in more than 90 per cent of cases. She was denied
access to the treatment she desperately needed as Israel refused her a permit to
travel to the hospital in Nablus in the West Bank in November 2007.

In a medical report accompanying her permit request an Israeli cancer
specialist had written: "This is a young woman who will die in the absence of
treatment and with treatment her chances of recovery are excellent" (underlined
in the original).

The Israeli authorities nonetheless refused to let her leave Gaza and the Israeli
High Court of Justice refused to intervene. Earlier this year, she eventually
managed to leave Gaza to Egypt as an exceptional case, but by then her
condition had deteriorated irreparably and she returned to Gaza to be with her
family. Subsequent requests for her to travel to Israel to receive at least
palliative care to relieve her pain were in vain.

"So long as the Israeli authorities and armed forces control Gaza’s land borders,
airspace and territorial waters, they have responsibilities under international law
to ensure the welfare of Gaza’s civilian population. At present, Israel is not
fulfilling its responsibilities," said Donatella Rovera.

Israeli forces have killed some 20 Palestinians, mostly militants, but including
two children, in air strikes and other attacks since 4 November. Palestinian
armed groups have resumed firing rockets from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns
and villages, injuring two Israeli civilians and several soldiers.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Palestinian armed groups,
including the armed militias of the Hamas de-facto administration in Gaza, to
put an end to the launching of rockets, which are indiscriminate and endanger
the lives of Israeli civilians.

"Targeting civilians can never be justified, no matter what the reason invoked.
Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups must immediately cease attacks and
actions which put the lives of the civilian populations of Gaza and southern
Israel at risk," said Donatella Rovera.

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For more information, please contact the National Office of Amnesty
International Mexico, 56876010 55366776 or send an email
activismo@amnistia.org.mx

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