Starting Tomorrow: Escalation in Collective Punishment of Gaza – With High Court Approval Further Electricity Cuts Planned

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel * Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement * HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual * Physicians for Human Rights-Israel * The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights * The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel * Gaza Community Mental Health Programme * B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories * Al –Haq * Mezan Center for Human Rights

News Release – for Immediate Release – Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Starting Tomorrow: Escalation in Collective Punishment of Gaza – With High Court Approval Further Electricity Cuts Planned

Human Rights Groups: “Israel is Depriving Civilians in Gaza of Basic Needs – in Violation of International Law”.

Wed., February 6, 2008: Beginning tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 7), Israel will reduce supplies of electricity it sells to Gaza, as part of punitive measures taken against Gaza’s civilian population, with the approval of Israel’s Supreme Court. The cuts to electricity were permitted after Israel’s Supreme Court last week rejected a petition by ten Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations challenging Israel’s planned reductions to supplies of electricity and fuel it allows Gaza residents to purchase. The groups claimed that the cuts violate international law, because they deliberately harm civilians, depriving them of the energy they need to run vital services in Gaza. Israel controls Gaza’s borders and does not permit supplies to enter Gaza except via Israeli controlled crossings.

The human rights groups: “This new electricity cut will worsen the punitive measures taken against civilians in Gaza, in violation of international law. The fuel and electricity cuts are already disrupting the ability of Gaza residents to receive medical care, access clean water, pump sewage, and heat and light their homes – with no valid security rationale.”

Regarding the court decision, the rights groups noted: “The Israeli Supreme Court’s decision approving collective punishment sets a dangerous precedent. The decision ignores the clear international law prohibition against deliberately harming civilians – and fails to stop the military’s punitive measures.”

According to a plan submitted to the court, Israel’s military will reduce supply by 5% on three of ten lines supplying electricity to Gaza from Israel’s Electric Company. Tomorrow, 5% will be cut on the first line, and over the next two weeks an additional 5% cut will be added to the other two lines, for a total cut of 1.5 MW.

Even as they condemned tomorrow’s planned cuts to the electricity sold to Gaza by Israel, the rights groups noted that Israel is already making much more severe cuts to Gaza’s electricity supply – 25 megawatts – by preventing Gaza’s power plant from purchasing the amount of industrial diesel needed to operate at capacity. Today, Gaza’s power plant is producing just 55 megawatts electricity, instead of the 80 megawatts it could produce, if it were permitted to obtain more industrial diesel. The industrial diesel cuts have contributed to a 20% electricity deficit in Gaza, which has forced rolling blackouts that have disrupted the functioning of hospitals, sewage treatment plants, water pumps, and other vital services. Gaza residents are still experiencing power outages of more than 8 hours per day on average. Cuts in petrol and regular diesel have disrupted transportation throughout Gaza and caused shortages in the fuel l needed to run back-up generators.

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