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Siege in Gaza v International Law

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    David Halpin: Siege of 1.4 Million Souls in Gaza v International Law http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13102.htm 05/18/06 Information Clearing
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2006
      David Halpin: Siege of 1.4 Million Souls in Gaza v International Law
      http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13102.htm


      05/18/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- The 360 square kms of the
      'Strip' represent 1.5% of 'mandate' Palestine. Another 3 million
      Palestinians live in the ineptly named 'West Bank', and in East
      Jerusalem. This represents about 11% of mandate Palestine. Two thirds
      of the 1.4 million population in the Gaza Strip are refugees and their
      offspring. The former had fled southwards from their homes and land in
      1948 before and during the Arab-Israeli war. The massacre of Deir
      Yassin on April 4th was a central cause of the panic that drove that
      mass migration, as well as overwhelming force of arms. The refugees
      were given materials for building concrete shelters in 'camps'
      throughout the Strip. They were cheek by jowl, and cold in winter. In
      spite of UN resolution 242 and others, they have remained trapped in
      an utterly oppressive environment. Since the start of the second
      intifada – 'shaking loose', in September 2000, the standard of living
      has dropped steadily. Unemployment has been over 50% and is rising
      quickly now. 78% of the population are living under the poverty line
      of less than US $ 2.1 per person per day, and 10% of children under
      the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. (1) A study in late
      2002 found that 17.5% of children aged 6–59 months suffered from
      chronic malnutrition 53% of women of reproductive age and 44% of
      children were found to be anaemic (2)

      The Israeli Occupation Force withdrew itself and 8000 colonists last
      September from the 30% of the Strip they occupied. But the occupation
      went on. Tight control of the border crossing points has continued,
      including the one with Egypt - Rafah. Overflights by 'drones', Apache
      helicopter gunships and F16s persist. The latter were used to cause
      sonic booms at low levels last autumn. The mental injury to adult and
      child triggered a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court. (3) The
      distance from shore within which Palestinians are allowed to fish is
      set by the occupier, and sometimes banned completely. Thus an
      important source of high quality protein is limited. A commercial port
      was being built, but that was bombed along with the airport.

      Then in January this year, Hamas received 43% of the votes in
      scrupulously held elections.(4) Out of this they gained 74 of the 132
      seats in the legislature. Hamas, which first came to life in 1987, has
      been proscribed as a 'terrorist' structure because of its charter and
      because of its use of suicide bombing from 1993. However, it has
      maintained a hudna – a truce, with the occupier for 18 months. It has
      energetically led social, educational projects etc and in Gaza
      especially. It has widespread support within the populace which wishes
      to be sumud – steadfast. Ground has been lost in reality and
      metaphorically; 'not one grain of sand more!'

      An already dire state of affairs, was quickly exacerbated. Taxes
      amounting to $50 million per month that are due to the Palestinian
      government have been withheld by the State of Israel and financial
      support by the EU ceased. The latter amounted to 0.5 billion euros in
      direct and indirect aid per year.

      The US has driven this policy of isolation with the clear intention of
      destabilising the elected government so that it is overturned. There
      is no money to pay the 150,000 public servants within the 'West Bank'
      and Gaza strip. This includes doctors, nurses and other health
      workers. Most have not been paid for two months. There is very little
      money in circulation. High quality fruit that has been grown for
      export through Israel has been allowed in only small amounts through
      Karnai, the commercial checkpoint. No other exports are passing
      through, and little is coming in. That includes drugs, spare parts for
      dialysis machines etc. There are no drugs and anaesthetic agents left
      in the hospitals. Shafa hospital, the main public hospital, was
      threatened with closure last week. What was to be done for the case of
      peritonitis? Dr. Moawiya Hassanein at the Ministry of Health (MOH)
      reported 7-05-06 that Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) prevented 274
      patients last month from passing through the Erez checkpoint to
      receive vital medical treatment in the hospitals of the West Bank and
      Israel. He added that they suffer from critical diseases such as
      cancer, leukemia, cardiac diseases etc. They are in need of urgent and
      advanced medical treatment as well as surgical operations.


      To this economic siege has been added the firing of tens of thousands
      of shells (5) into 'open ground' for over two months by artillery,
      tanks and ships. These fall into one of the most densely populated
      areas in the world. The ostensible purpose is to quell the firing of
      the primitive and unguided Qassam rockets, which have killed thirteen
      Israeli subjects in the last two years according to B'tselem ( 6).
      This Israel based organisation states the indiscriminate nature of
      these weapons makes their firing a war crime, especially when it is
      close to Palestinian residential areas. It points out the shelling is
      a disproportionate response and an inappropriate one, given that these
      rockets are fired from varying positions. There has been considerable
      loss of life and limb. In the first fortnight of April, 16 were
      killed. On 16 April 2006, B'Tselem, along with other Israeli and
      Palestinian human rights organizations, petitioned the High Court of
      Justice to cancel the IDF order reducing the safety zone for shells
      fired into the Gaza Strip to only 100 meters from civilian objects.
      The petitioners argued that the weaponry is not precise and reduction
      of the safety zone endangers civilian lives. On 10 April, after the
      range had been reduced, seven-year-old Hadil Ghiban was killed by a
      shell that struck her house. The blast also injured twelve members of
      her family. Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) has
      documented mental injury to children caused by the noise and shock of
      shell explosions. In addition to these war crimes, extra-judicial
      assassination of Palestinian resistance leaders occurs without
      abatement. Often bystanders are involved. This is usually done by
      rocket from Apache helicopters or unmanned aircraft.

      It is unconscionable and unprecedented that nations who are
      signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention and of the UN Charter
      should be instruments in a siege which is causing suffering and loss
      now, and which will lead to a humanitarian disaster, probably epidemic
      disease.

      Under international humanitarian law, Israel as occupier, must protect
      the wounded, sick, children, and pregnant women, enable the free
      passage of medicines and essential foodstuffs, enable medical teams to
      provide assistance, and not impose collective punishment. Under
      international human rights law, Israel must respect the right of every
      person to freedom of movement, to work, to an adequate standard of
      living, to education, to adequate health care, and to family life. (6)

      The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the Protection of
      Civilian Persons in the Time of War, states in its first article -
      "The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure
      respect for the present Convention in all circumstances." In addition,
      Article 146 of the convention outlines specific obligations of
      contracting parties, including undertaking legislative procedures, to
      pursue those suspected of committing serious violations, and to bring
      them to trial or hand them to a third party interested in bringing
      them to trial. (7)

      The 25 countries of the EU have an additional obligation in that the
      second article of the EU-Israel Association Agreement states "
      Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the
      Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and
      democratic principles, which guides their internal and international
      policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement. (7)

      The EU Commissioner, Ms Ferrero-Waldner, is currently negotiating ways
      to get money into the hospitals and schools without it 'touching' the
      Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority. AIDA and other NGO groups have
      spoken strongly against this as being inefficient and destabilising.
      There are large amounts of money from Arab nations and individuals
      which are sitting in Cairo and elsewhere because Arab banks fear
      draconian sanctions by the US if they break the siege.

      Comment.

      These words from the total of one hundred and twenty-six in the
      Balfour Declaration on the 2nd of November 1917 would seem to have
      been hollow:-

      '...it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may
      prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish
      communities in Palestine,..'

      International law is clear as to the state obtaining in Gaza today.
      There is no requirement to negotiate 'solutions', but for these
      unlawful actions to cease forthwith.

      David Halpin FRCS Orthopaedic and trauma surgeon.

      Notes

      Jan Coffey – Save the Children UK Programme Manager at press
      conference with 31 other international aid agencies meeting (AIDA) in
      Jerusalem on 4-05-06.

      John Hopkins and Al-Quds Universities for Care International.

      Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and Physicians for
      Human Rights -Israel (PHR): Joint Press Release 14-11-05

      Jimmy Carter: 'Punishing the innocent is a crime' 05/07/06
      International Herald Tribune

      Conal Urquhart:Observer 7-05-06

      B'tselem: http://www.btselem.org/english/Special/20060426_Gaza_Status.asp

      Palestinian Committee for Human Rights:
      http://www.pchrgaza.org/Interventions/poss_april_06.htm

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