” It Is State Terrorism, War Crime & Collective Punishment No Matter What Anyone Says “

SOS to GAZA  <br> ” It Is State Terrorism, War Crime & Collective Punishment No Matter What Anyone Says “

 What is happens in the Gaza Strip is nothing short  of war crimes and collective punishment,  and state terrorism, which is what Israel is bringing to the 1.5 million Palestinians. What is no less appalling and shocking are the official perspective of many countries and international bodies on all what is happening in Gaza, to make justifications and in some cases make validation of this inhuman and outrageous attack carried out against civilians by an organized – well trained – well equipped Army (if the term apply, it is much more an amoral mercenaries) and those parties attempting to cleanse this hideous attack are in many ways accomplices to it otherwise how much more latitude are everybody is willing to give  Israel, how much blood need to spill, and how many body bags more to let Israel know that IT IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW. More than 320 Palestinians have died and the number is still climbing since Israel started bombarding the Gaza Strip with F16 air strikes, and for anyone who is not aware; the Gaza Strip is a piece of the occupied Palestinian land. It is 362 Km square, the Israeli claimed to have left the Gaza Strip area in 2005 but the facts on the ground says otherwise; they are still occupying 87 Km square (24%) of the Gaza Strip, which means that the 1.5 million Palestinians live, work, cultivate, reside on 275 Km square.


Therefore, what drives the Israeli to overdo their usual brutality beyond their usual pace; is the official governments’ salience, tentative and uncertain action to put an end to this. What is happening in Gaza goes beyond the usual attrition, it more like annihilation. Why is it so difficult; nearly impossible; or is; to issue a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the Israeli action. Yes, it is understandable that there are other issues and consideration to bear in mind but what about the 320 people killed (most likely to reach 400+) in addition to more than 1700 people injured by air strikes, where does the international law stand on that, other wise what is the number of people need to die to qualify for a condemnation statement by the UN Security Council, is it 500, 600, 1000,…what then?



The following reports tells about Gaza pre it bombardment


The Strangulation of the Gaza Strip

The Gaza strip is once again facing a prolonged period of closure, which is crippling the economy, and contributing to the unbearable day-to-day living conditions within the strip.


On Wednesday the 30th of August Kofi Annan – the UN secretary general stated in a joint press conference with Palestinian President Abbas in which he called for the re-opening of Gazas crossings [including the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the main crossings to Israel to connect Gaza with the West Bank] in order to &#39;sustain life&#39; in the strip.


&#39;Beyond preserving life, we have to sustain life. The closure of Gaza must be lifted [and] the crossing points must be opened, not just to allow the import of goods but to allow Palestinian exports out as well,&#39; he said


The general secretary&#39;s reference to &#39;sustaining life&#39; refers to the fact that the strip has suffered from various levels of sustained closure since the end of the Israeli disengagement process on September 12, 2005. These closures not only apply to the free movement of people but often also hinder the transportation of food and urgent medical supplies.


Over the one-year period since disengagement, the economy and living conditions in the Gaza strip have been steadily declining due to these prolonged closures. The result is that life in the strip is indeed becoming unsustainable to the level where the General Secretary of the UN has to make a formal request that Israel allow &#39;life&#39; to be sustained.


When Israel announced its plan to &#39;disengage&#39; from the strip, the Palestinian government and some members of the international community quickly became aware of the need to ensure that the people of Gaza had the required access to movement. In order to further the international credibility of the sovereignty myth, Israel eventually accepted that Gaza should have at least one access point to the outside world, which the Israeli military would not control directly. 


The result was that an agreement to open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was signed on 15 November 2005, over two months after the &#39;disengagement&#39;. Had the terminal been placed under full Palestinian control this move would have gone part way towards giving Gaza some sovereignty as a political unit. The Israelis out right refused to agree to this led to the final agreement, which stated that the European Union was to oversee the functioning of the terminal whilst the Israelis would have a &#39;surveillance&#39; presence.


Since the beginning of the recent re-invasion of the Gaza Strip in June 2006, the Israeli military has closed the Rafah terminal trapping thousands of Palestinians on the Egyptian side and isolating the strip from the outside world.


The recent complete closure of the strip is being perversely justified as a security measure designed to ensure that a captured Israeli soldier (who is being held as a prisoner of war) is not removed from the strip. An analysis of the events easily reveals that this claim is absurd for the following reasons.


On June 27, Israeli forces re-entered the Gaza strip under the guise of trying to re-capture the Israeli prisoner of war. Since this time the IOF have conducted a campaign of infrastructural warfare, which has crippled the day to day functioning of the entire strip. Within days of the beginning of the &#39;rescue operation&#39; the military had destroyed seven key bridges, most of the main connecting roads, severely damaged the only power station in the strip and opened fire on dozens of civilian buildings.


The obvious results of such a large campaign against an infrastructure that maintains 1.5 million people are quite devastating. Food and medical supplies are running out very quickly, hospitals are having to depend upon emergency generators in order to keep functioning and the sewage and sanitation network is close to collapse; something which would prove disastrous in the most heavily populated place on earth. When the complete closure of the strip is seen in this light – closure to supplies as well as movement – it becomes clear that the Israelis are deliberately trying to create a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza strip.


Unfortunately, this recent aggression has not come as a surprise to many Palestinians. In spite of the &#39;sovereign Gaza&#39; myth that the Israelis have been cultivating in the international media since disengagement, the plan can be seen as nothing more than an elaborate strategic redeployment of troops. The Israeli military still have full control over the airspace of Gaza and use it regularly to assassinate Palestinian political activists on the ground. Inside the strip the IOF control &#39;buffer zones&#39; along all the borders which are 3-400 hundred meter areas of land where all agricultural land has been raised and all houses destroyed. When this is combined with the fact that the Israeli navy control the coast and all the land borders have now been sealed, it becomes apparent how much of a fallacy an &#39;independent Gaza strip&#39; really is. [See ARIJ report or 20/10/2004 &#39;what does Sharon want of Gaza for disengagement analysis]


This token symbol of sovereignty that was granted as part of the disengagement plan has been revealed for what it is: an illusion. The Israeli military can enter the strip at any time they deem appropriate, seal all the borders to the outside world (including invaluable &#39;life&#39; supplies like food), devastate the infrastructure and guarantee that Gaza never achieves anything even resembling independence. This prolonged closure of Gaza, combined with the massive military assault, has only served to demonstrate how the occupation of Gaza has not ended – it has evolved. 


The recent closures of the Gaza strip are part of a campaign of strangulation. The massive military re-invasion, the accompanying infrastructural destruction and the closure of all borders can be seen as nothing more than a deliberate attempt to foster a humanitarian crisis, which will make the Gaza strip unlivable.  


Is it Disengagement or Redeployment?

The Not So Liberated Gaza Strip


The Israeli Activities in the Gaza Strip during 2005

Even though the Gaza Strip has had significant alteration to its status in the year 2005, the Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Israel at no time prior to the actual day of the disengagement had ceased any of its hostile acts against Palestinians and their properties. Lands razed, houses demolished and trees uprooted before the Israeli settlers move out of Gaza and the Israeli Army redeploy its troops and artillery on the outskirts of Gaza. Today, the Israeli Army no longer exist in the heart of Gaza except through its firing artillery, which are still capable of reaching any where in Gaza from the area designated as a security belt wrapped around Gaza eastern side; starting south of Gaza at the Rafah-Israel-Egyptian border point all the way up to northern Gaza to the newly declared by Israel buffer zone area. The Israeli security belt amounts to 61 Km2, which constitutes nearly 17% of the Gaza Strip total area. Below is a map of Gaza after the disengagement and the Israeli buffer zone.


In June 28, 2007, and in a unilateral step, the Israeli Army expanded the security buffer zone along Gaza’s northern an eastern border to 1.5 Km width. Accordingly, the newly defined security buffer zone, occupy an area of 87 Km2 (24%) of the Gaza Strip area. The following table shows the timeline of the Israeli security zone around Gaza’s border.


Timeline of Israeli security buffer zone around Gaza’s Border


in years

Buffer zone

Width along 58 Km

Area in Km2


of Gaza’s area


500 m



Sept- Dec










Source: ARIJ GIS Unit – 2008

*   Agreed upon in Oslo 1994

** Unilaterally carried out by Israel



The Gaza siege and its impacts


The history of the siege

The Gaza Strip shares its borders with Israel and Egypt. Although Israel proclaims to have withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, the so-called Israeli disengagement, in reality Israel still controls the daily lives of the Gazans. Israel controls the borders all around Gaza, even the one bordering Egypt. In addition to that, Israel controls the shore and the airspace. Since the clashes between Hamas and Fatah in June 2007 resulting in Hamas’ overtaking of Gaza, the area has been almost completely sealed off. Israel stopped handing over taxes and customs revenues. At the same time the international donors stopped their economic aid. Israel is using Hamas’ overtaking as justification for the siege, as Hamas and Israel refuse to recognize each other.


The siege in practice

Israel controls not only the people, but also the supplies, that go in and out of Gaza. The siege has the residents of Gaza imprisoned without the chance to maintain a normal life. As Israel also controls the airspace and the shores it is not possible for Gaza to import or export more than the very limited goods allowed by Israel.


The Gaza Strip is surrounded to the east and north by a security zone taking up 24% of the land of Gaza. To the south, on the Egyptian border, it is closed with the Rafah wall. On the west Gaza is surrounded by the sea which is also closed for the Palestinians. There is 7 crossing points on the landside of Gaza:


1- Beit Hanun/Erez crossing: locatedTo the north is the Beit Hanun or Erez crossing. It is a crossing for pedestrians and cargo. The Beit Hanun/Erez crossing borders Israel. It therefore used to be the main crosissing point for the Gazans who is going to Israel.


2- Ash Shuja&#39;ia/Nahal Oz crossing: The Shuja&#39;ia crossing is located on the eastside of the Gazan border. It is located just north of the Al Mintar/Karni crossing. This is the crossing point for the fuel supplies to Gaza. The closing of the crossing point is a big problem as it prevents Gaza from receiving fuel supplies.


3- Al Mintar/Karni crossing: The Al Mintar/Karni crossing is a cargo terminal. Unlike most of the other border crossings it is maintained by the Israeli Airports Authority. The crossing was built in 1993 and is used to transport containers in and out of Gaza. This crossing point is the crossing point that controls the Gazan export and import.


4- Al Qarara/Kesufiem crossing: The Al Qarara/Kesufiem crossing was completely closed after the Israeli disengagement in 2005. It is located between the Khan Yunis Governorae and the Deir Al Balah Governorate.


5- Al&#39;Awda/Sufa crossing: The Al&#39;Awda/Sufa crossing is used to import materials like cement and other construction materials into Gaza. During the siege the crossing point has been used for transportation of basic food supplies from the UN.


6- Karm Abu Salem/Kerem Shalom crossing: The Karm Abu Salem/Kerem Shalom crossing was also used for the transportation of humanitarian aid during the siege. It also used to be the crossing point for import of supplies from Egypt. This crossing point is maintained by the Israeli Airports Authority.  


7- Rafah crossing: This crossing point is international as it borders Egypt. It is the only crossing point from Gaza that is, in theory, not directly controlled by Israel. However Israel still have the power to open and close it, and since June 2007 it has been almost permanently closed.


Life before and after the siege

Life before the siege was also quite challenging for the Gazans. Even after the Israeli disengagement in 2005, the situation on the ground was still controlled by Israel. In theory the Palestinian Authority had control over the Rafah crossing. But the Israelis remained able to close it when they wanted. The tax system was also a challenge for the Gazans. As the tax was collected by Israel and then handed over to the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis could hold back the payment at any time. In this case the Palestinian Authority would not be able to pay the salaries. This was an effective way to punish Gaza, and the method was taken into use when Hamas took control of Gaza.


Even before the siege Israel fully controlled the movement between the West Bank and Gaza. This sometimes meant that families with members from both the West Bank and Gaza were not able to unite. However the situation before the siege was not as bad as now. Before the siege it was often possible for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza through Egypt and Jordan. This is no longer possible. The economic situation in Gaza before the siege was not good. But as can be read in the following paragraph it is now even worse. 


Economic impact

The economic impact on Gaza has been huge. The closure-politics have resulted in an extremely high unemployment rate. In Gaza 33% of the active workforce is currently unemployed. This is compared to the 19% in the West Bank (Source: World Bank). This unemployment is largely due to the siege. Gaza itself is not able to employ the many workers who used to work inside Israel before the strict closure of the borders. According to MAS Institute for Economic Studies 68.000 workers lost their jobs since June 2007 due to this.


The siege has made it difficult for the companies in Gaza to sell their products. There has been a stop to import and export. Before June 2007, the beginning of the siege, the private sector in Gaza considered “Decline in purchasing power” the main reason for the drop in sale level. However, from June 2007, the perception changed and “Israeli closure/actions” was now considered the main reason. The Gazans economy depends a great deal on export. Until recently, most of their products were exported to Israel and the West Bank. For example was 76% of their furniture products exported. Especially the agricultural sector is depending on export. Almost all their products are produced with the intentions of exporting. Strawberries are one of Gaza’s largest exports of the agricultural sector. The estimated lost income on this product during 2007/2008 is $7 million. (Source: World Bank). Also the fishing industry is very important for Gaza. But this industry is in deep trouble. First it has difficulties due to the access restrictions on the shores imposed by Israel since 2001. Secondly, the lack of fuel has a great impact on this industry. This meant that the anglers from Gaza, in January 2008, took 63% fewer fishing trips than the year before (source OCHA).      


According to the UN 79% of the people in Gaza is now living under the poverty line.


Impact on basic needs

The blockade on Gaza has many impacts. It means that the Gazans have trouble covering their basic needs. Many things are restricted. One of the most important things is fuel. Israel put restriction on the fuel supplies since 28th of October 2007 (Source: UN). The lack of fuel has a massive impact on the daily life. It means that there are electricity cuts up to 8 hours a day. It also makes it impossible to overcome daily challenges. There are big problems collecting the garbage and distributing the food aid to the many dependent people. In April 2008, the UN warned that if there was not imported more fuel, they could no longer distribute food for 650.000 people and collect garbage for 500.000 people. The difficulties in distributing aid, such as food, are fatal, as 80% of the Gazans are depending on food supplies from the UN (Source: UN).


The lack of fuel is also causing problems for transportation. This is a problem for people who need to get to work or to university. More serious is the fact that even some ambulances do not have fuel enough to function.


Impact on education

The siege on Gaza is a big obstacle for students. Gaza has only 3 universities. Many educations are not available in the area. Ph.D.-degrees are not available at all. This means that hundreds of Gazans planned to study outside of Gaza (Source: Btselem). These students are no longer able to reach their universities and finish their education. Also the students that study inside the Gaza Strip are facing big problems. Due to the lack of fuel, and therefore transportation, many are not able to reach their university. This means that a there is big percent of students and teachers absent. Sometimes this percent is so high that the universities have to close for a while as it happened in April 2008. Also for children the siege is catastrophic. During the last 5 months almost 2000 children dropped out of school as their parents could no longer afford to send them (Source: Care International).


Impact on health care

The lack of fuel has a big impact on this field as well. As the electricity is often cut the hospitals have to survive on their own generators. This forces the hospitals to put aside some fuel for these generators. The hospitals therefore have to postpone surgeries in the cases where it is not life threatening. This builds up a big group of patients to take care of later. In some cases, the patient will need treatment outside of Gaza as the right equipment might not be present. For these patients the siege is a life-threatening obstacle. According to the World Health Organization 31% of vital medical equipments and 19% of necessary medicines were lacking in Gaza in January 2008. The limited access to water has a very big impact on the health issue. Around 40% of the households have access to water only for a few hours every day (Source: Care International). In addition to this, the quality of the water is not very good. In fact 50% of the households in Gaza evaluate the quality of their water as bad (Source: PCBS). The garbage on the streets that, as mentioned above, in many cases can&#39;t be picked up due to the lack of fuel is a health risk as well.


Also the sewage water is a ticking bomb, not only under Gaza, but also under Israel. There is not access to spare parts in Gaza, nor is there enough electricity to clean the sewage water. This means that about 40 million liters unclean sewage water gets pumped directly into the Mediterranean Sea every day (Source: Care International).     


The delay on medical treatment is causing deaths as well. According to Btselem 5 Gazans died in 2008 and 10 in 2007 as they were not able to get proper medical treatment in time.


The siege on Gaza and international law

The Gaza siege is breaking international law. According to the Universal declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 13.2; &#39;Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own and return to his country&#39;. The Gazans are trapped in Gaza as was it a big prison. They no longer have the right to leave their country. Nor did the Gazans who trapped outside of Gaza during the beginning of the siege have the right to return to their own country.


The siege also breaks the Haag Convention&#39;s, 1907, 50th article that says: &#39;No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible&#39;. This means that this kind of collective punishment is not allowed. Therefore, closing all of Gaza, and imprisoning its 1.5 million people, to punish the individuals at the border, who fire Qassam rockets towards Israel, is strictly forbidden.


After the so-called Israeli disengagement in 2005 Israel claimed that it had left Gaza and was no longer responsible for its inhabitants. However, this is not really the case. Clearly Israel stills solely controls the freedom of movement in Gaza and thereby the lives of the Gazans. Israel has therefore, according to international law, a responsibility for the people living under their control.


According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26.1.: &#39;Everyone has the right to education…&#39;. For the Gazans, to study outside or even inside the borders of Gaza is not always possible anymore. As mentioned above the students taking an education that is not available in Gaza are no longer allowed to leave and continue their studies. Moreover, the students studying in Gaza are not always able to study as the schools and universities may be closed due to the difficult circumstances.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25.1: &#39;Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the well-being of himself and of his family…&#39;. This is not the case for the majority of the Gazans as they live under very poor circumstances. Their health and well-being is obviously at risk.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 23.1: &#39;Everyone has the right to work…&#39;. This right was taken from the Gazans when they lost their right to work inside Israel. Also the siege has forced 3.500 businesses to close, resulting in 75.000 lay-offs (Source: BTselem). This has left Gaza with an unemployment-rate among the highest in the world.


The siege is breaking the 1949 Geneva-convention&#39;s article 23: &#39;Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary. It shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases&#39;. As mentioned above 31% of vital medical equipment and 19% of necessary medicines were lacking in Gaza in January 2008. The closure of the borders does not allow free passage of necessary equipment for the civilians in Gaza.  


To conclude

The siege of Gaza is not only illegal according to international law; it is a ticking bomb under the region. It threatens the environment and is destroying the well being for 1.5 million people. Should the siege continue, the poverty rate will continue to grow and the economic sector of Gaza will be very difficult to rebuild. If the children and youth of Gaza are not able to finish a proper education, Gaza will be left with a generation of uneducated people. This will contribute to the difficulties in reestablishing the economy of Gaza. For all of these obvious reasons the siege of Gaza must come to an end as soon as possible.           





[1] Due to its absorption of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 the Gaza strip is so over-populated that it has a population density of 11532 persons per kilometers squared (That includes only the built-up area).






Prepared by 
The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem

Categories: Reports