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Gaza Siege Harshness Continues

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Gaza SiegeIsrael's claimed easing is false. Besieged Gazans remain isolated. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) assessed conditions in January.

Except for limited amounts of agricultural products, Gaza's export economy's suffering. In addition, imports of basic needs and raw materials fall well below minimal needs.

Karm Abu Salem crossing was closed nearly 30% of the time. Incoming truckloads are 28.5% of pre-siege levels.

Out of 60 million flowers produced annually, export permission's granted for only a tiny fraction. In 2005, 70 truckloads of agricultural products were exported daily. Now it's a shadow of that amount.

Before June 2007, 570 average daily truckloads entered Gaza. Now it's around 150.

Karm Abu Salem crossing handles commercial traffic only. Currently, it doesn't meet Gaza's needs. Previously, goods entered through four crossings. In March 2011, Israel began demolishing the main al-Mentar (Karni) commercial crossing.

It once handled 75% of Strip needs. Its closure and dependence on Karm Abu Salem severely restricted movement of goods. Moreover, high transportation expenses increased import prices, and farmers incurred higher export costs.

Al-Mentar crossing opened in 1995. According to the 2005 Crossings Agreement, its operational capacity allowed 400 export trucks daily and 600 entering. Yet Israel's bureaucracy prevented attaining these levels even before imposed siege restrictions.

Gaza's commercial crossing is important. During Cast Lead it was destroyed. In addition, Private Transport Association secretary-general Jihad Salim said shipping a container from Ashdod, Israel to Gaza cost more than from China to Ashdod. It's because onerous import fees impose burdensome expenses.

Besides agriculture, Gaza's export economy relies heavily on textiles and furniture. Producers are hard-pressed to survive. Many can't and shut down.

In January, 2,800 tons of cooking gas entered Gaza. It represents less than half what's needed. Israel permitted 330,000 liters of diesel and 70,000 liters of benzene. It's far less than what Gazans need. As a result, tunnel smuggling's essential.

A total ban on construction materials remains for private sector use. International organizations are permitted limited quantities, including 70,000 tons of construction aggregate, 7,400 tons of cement, and 1,435 tons of iron. Limited amounts of tar, other construction materials, plumbing tools, ceramics and marble were also allowed.

Vehicular traffic restrictions reduced entry to half its normal flow. An agreement to permit more wasn't implemented.

Fewer patients were given travel permission to visit Israeli, West Bank and Jerusalem hospitals. The level represents half the early 2006 level. Certain categories were excluded altogether, including blind patients, those with amputated limbs, and others Israel won't qualify as needing urgent treatment.

Under complicated bureaucratic procedures, 46 international journalists, 93 diplomats, and 548 international humanitarian organization workers entered after several days of delay.

Business people endured five border crossing closures. During the 26 open, 2,300 traders were let in. It represents half the June 2007 level.

For over 56 months, families of about 500 Gazans detained in Israeli prisons were prevented from visiting loved ones. No rational reasons were given. Doing so violates Fourth Geneva's Article 116, stating:

"Every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible. As far as is possible, internees shall be permitted to visit their homes in urgent cases, particularly in cases of death or serious illness of relatives."

Rafah International Crossing Point conditions improved. About 15,760 entered Egypt. Another 774 returned. Palestinian males aged 18 to 40 are prohibited traveling either way. Opened five days a week, it's closed on weekends and official holidays.

Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing handles pedestrian traffic. Israel closed it with few exceptions. They include patients with serious illnesses, Arabs with Israeli IDs, international journalists, international humanitarian organization employees, businesspeople, and persons traveling via al-Karama crossing. Even they endure burdensome delays.

Gaza's siege is illegal. Isolation this long represents cruel and unusual collective punishment. Pressure's vital to end it entirely, including for seaborne entry. Israel maintains it repressively, despite serving no useful purpose.

As a result, 1.7 million Gazans endure severe hardships. They're suffocating because too few vital to life supplies enter. Others remain at Israel's whim to curtail or cut off entry entirely for any reason or none at all. This must end.

Fourth Geneva's Article 55 states:

"To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores, and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate."

"The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles, or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account."

Under Article 1, Fourth Geneva's "High Contracting Powers" are obligated to ensure implementation of the convention's provisions to assure proper treatment for occupied people.

For nearly 45 years, Israel never treated Palestinians responsibly. As a result, they continue enduring appalling hardships, especially besieged Gazans.

A Final Comment

At hundreds of checkpoints, Israel harasses Palestinians repressively. On January 25, Haaretz writer Amira Hass headlined, "New Israeli search method at West Bank checkpoint worries Palestinians," saying:

According to international aid workers, "Israel Police have begun implementing a new method of searching Palestinian vehicles through use of (unknown, perhaps toxic) nausea-inducing chemicals at a Bethlehem checkpoint."

Cars are pulled over, then "passengers are asked to roll up all windows, apart from that of the driver – and exit the vehicle. Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch."

One international user described the experience as follows:

"[T]he tube is left connected for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, the filter is removed and taken to a nearby building. The worker says she was under the impression that some kind of chemical was disseminated into the vehicle, as she and another passenger began feeling nauseous and suffered from headaches several days afterwards. The worker has informed her country’s embassy."

In combat, Israel tests new terror weapons in real time. Apparently Palestinians are test subjects to see how well or poorly they handle this substance, whatever it is. An Israeli official explained the procedure offhandedly, saying:

"(I)t must conduct arbitrary, rudimentary checks through use of sophisticated technological means, all the while alleviating the experience of those being checked." No further explanation was given.

Begun in December, it continues. Palestinians with Israeli license plates and foreign residents are excluded. What's used and its potential short or longer term effects aren't known.

Israel's unconcerned about Palestinians' health and well-being. Gazans endure critical fuel and medical supply shortages. About 90% of Gaza's water is unsafe, and raw sewage dumped into the Mediterranean poses serious health hazards.

In conflicts, illegal weapons, depleted uranium, and other toxins are used freely. What's a dose of unknown gas besides all that. They add up and take a toll.


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