Rights groups file petition calling on Israel to renew entry of goods into Gaza
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Rights groups file petition calling on Israel to renew entry of goods into Gaza

Leftist NGOs ask High Court to overrule ‘immoral and illegal’ decision to ban fuel and other products from Strip in response to arson attacks

Trucks are seen at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on July 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Trucks are seen at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on July 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Six left-wing human rights groups on Sunday petitioned Israel’s top court, demanding the removal of restrictions imposed by Israel on the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Israel halted the supply of petroleum and natural gas to Gaza earlier this month after there was no pause in incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza into southern Israel, arson attacks that have gone on for months accompanied by border clashes. The violence has at times escalated into exchanges of fire on the border, rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli cities, and Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Calling the Israeli steps “immoral and illegal” in a statement, the NGOs called on Jerusalem to “stop its cynical exploitation of the civilian population in Gaza to further its own political gain.”

“Even before the closing of Kerem Shalom was announced, the crossing failed to supply the population’s minimal needs,” the petition filed to the High Court of Justice charged. “And so, rather than take measures to prevent the demise of a population of two million people, the respondents are acting to further deteriorate the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip (…) with complete disregard for the destructive implications of their decision for the civilian population.”

The petition was filed by Gisha, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Adalah, and Physicians for Human Rights Israel.

The groups said in their statement that the restrictions have led to shortages in “basic commodities” and caused thousands of people to lose their jobs in various industries.

A decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 has left the coastal territory with crippling fuel shortages and Gazans with just a few hours of electricity a day.

This photo taken on July 31, 2017 shows a Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply they receive every day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
A Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply that Gaza receives each day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, July 31, 2017. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas, a jihadist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007 and pushed out the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip. Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during several years of sour relations with Hamas.

Taking particular aim at Israel’s “dangerous” decision to ban fuel from entering Gaza, the NGOs claimed it put five hospitals in the Strip in danger of closing down.

Israel temporarily suspended fuel shipments to Gaza in July for similar reasons. The airborne arson attacks have started hundreds of fires that have consumed thousands of acres of farmland and countryside, causing millions of shekels in damage.

The groups claimed the restrictions “defy international law, the jurisprudence of Israel’s Supreme Court and Israel’s obligation to enable normal life for the two million residents of Gaza affected by its control over the crossings.”

A UN aid agency last week similarly urged Israel to let emergency fuel into the Gaza Strip to avert the shutdown of hospitals and sanitation facilities, a request that was ultimately approved. However, regular entry of fuel for civilian purposes hasn’t resumed.

Jamie McGoldrick from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that “the well-being of two million people, half of whom are children, is at stake. The reduced functioning of water and sanitation facilities risks an increase of waterborne disease and outbreaks.”

AP contributed to this report.

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