HRW: Israel Blocking Palestinian Aid 02/26 06:13
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel has failed to comply with an order by the
United Nations' top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in
the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said Monday, a month after a landmark ruling
in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.
In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of
genocide, the U.N.'s top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent
death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. It stopped short of
ordering an end to its military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian
catastrophe in the tiny Palestinian enclave. Israel vehemently denies the
charges against it, saying it is fighting a war in self-defense.
One month later and nearly five months into the war, preparations are
underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza's
southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians
have flooded into in search of safety.
Early Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the
army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as
plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones. It gave no further details.
The situation in Rafah, where dense tent camps have sprouted to house the
displaced, has sparked global concern and Israel's allies have warned that it
must protect civilians in its battle against Hamas.
Also Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he was
submitting his government's resignation. The move, which still must be accepted
by President Mahmoud Abbas, could open the door to U.S.-backed reforms in the
Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. wants to rule postwar Gaza but in a
In its ruling last month, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel
to follow six provisional measures, including taking "immediate and effective
measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and
humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."
Under the orders, Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to
adhere to the measures within a month. While Monday marked a month since the
court's orders were issued, it was not immediately clear whether Israel had
handed in such a report. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.
Human Rights Watch said Israel was not adhering to the court's order on aid
provision, citing a 30% drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering
Gaza in the weeks following the court's ruling. It said Israel was not
adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed
Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program
said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries because of increasing
chaos in the isolated part of the territory.
"The Israeli government has simply ignored the court's ruling, and in some
ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving
aid," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
Echoing Human Rights Watch, the Association of International Development
Agencies, a coalition of over 70 humanitarian organizations working in Gaza and
the West Bank, said aid deliveries have slowed since the court's ruling, with
almost no aid reaching areas in Gaza north of Rafah.
Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed
humanitarian organizations operating inside Gaza, saying hundreds of trucks
filled with aid sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing. The U.N.
says it can't always reach the trucks at the crossing because it is at times
Netanyahu's office also said Monday the War Cabinet had approved a plan to
deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would "prevent the
cases of looting." It did not disclose further details.
The war, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel,
killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage,
has unleashed unimaginable devastation in Gaza.
Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two thirds of them women and
children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza which does not
distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has
killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.
Fighting has flattened large swaths of Gaza's urban landscape, displacing
about 80% of the territory's 2.3 million people who have crammed into
increasingly smaller spaces looking for elusive safety.
The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and
raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, which
was the first focus of Israel's ground invasion and where starving residents
have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished
"I wish death for the children because I cannot get them bread. I cannot
feed them. I cannot feed my own children," Naim Abouseido yelled in anguish as
he waited for aid in Gaza City. "What did we do to deserve this?"
Bushra Khalidi, with U.K. aid organization Oxfam, told The Associated Press
that it had verified reports that children have died of starvation in the north
in recent weeks, which she said indicated aid was not being scaled up despite
the court ruling.
Israel said that 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday, less than half
the amount that entered daily before the war.
But Human Rights Watch, citing U.N. figures, said that between Jan. 27 and
Feb. 21, the daily average of trucks entering stood at 93, compared to 147
trucks a day in the three weeks before the world court's ruling. The daily
average dropped further, to 57, between Feb. 9 and 21, the figures showed.
Aid groups say deliveries continue to be hobbled by security issues. The
French aid groups Mdecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders each said that
facilities belonging to them were struck by Israeli forces in the weeks
following the court order.
United Nations agencies and aid groups say the hostilities, the Israeli
military's refusal to facilitate deliveries and the breakdown of order inside
Gaza make it increasingly difficult to get vital aid to much of the coastal
enclave. In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded
delivery trucks and stripped the supplies off them.
The U.N. has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the
north, and to improve the coordination process.