The PCHR is extremely worried about the continued Israeli ban on fuel supplies required for civilian life in the Gaza Strip.
The stoppage in fuel supplies has led to paralyzing 50% of the educational sector as half the students in all educational levels were unable to reach their schools and universities. In addition, educational sector employees have been unable to reach their work. Furthermore, the transportation sector has nearly stopped functioning throughout the Gaza Strip. As a result all basic functions of civilian life have come to a near standstill, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, and garbage collection. In addition, healthcare facilities registered a 25% drop in clients due to the transportation crisis. Furthermore, hundreds of healthcare professionals were unable to reach their work places.
On 9 April 2008, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) stopped the flow of the heavily reduced fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip. As a result, the humanitarian situation hit hard by continuous collective punishment since 15 June 2006, deteriorated even further.
PCHR’s monitoring indicates that the Gaza Strip has become a ghost town, especially in the morning and in the afternoon. Approximately 145 fuel stations shut down; and all suppliers of fuel and gas shut down due to the total lack of supplies. Local sources indicate that the transportation sector is operating at 15% capacity, including public and private transportation. The civilian population is finding it extremely difficult to reach places of work, study, and even healthcare facilities.
The educational sector is the hardest hit by the fuel crisis. Absenteeism in schools and universities varied from 20-50% since last Saturday, especially in Gaza City that houses most schools and universities. The Islamic University, Al-Azhar University, Al-Aqsa University, and Al-Quds Open University registered 30-55% absenteeism. The Islamic University stated that yesterday 60% of its 19000 students and 600 faculty members were absent due to their inability to reach the university. Al-Azhar University stated that absenteeism of their students (19000) climbed from 30% on Saturday to 40% on Sunday, and 55% on Monday morning. Al-Aqsa University suspended studies starting today till Thursday due to 50% absenteeism of students (14000) and staff.
Approximately 50% of the 6000 students in Al-Aqsa University branch in Khan Yunis were absent today; and 10% of the staff members were not able to come to work. Approximately 1000 students were absent from the Islamic University branch in Khan Yunis. And in the same city, 30% of the students were absent in Al-Quds Open University.
On the school level, thousands of students and teachers were unable to reach their schools. Absenteeism ranged from 10-30% of the total number of school students of 448000. UNRWA schools in the eastern part of Khan Yunis registered 30% absenteeism (10500 students). A school in El-Qarara to the north of Khan Yunis closed due to the absence of a large number of teachers. Dar El-Arqam private school in Gaza announced a 3-day suspension of school since the school’s buses ran out of fuel.
The Ministry of Health announced that most ambulances have stopped due to lack of fuel. In addition, the Ministry announced that it has started using its limited fuel reserve to operate health centers and important equipment. The Ministry warned that the expiry of this small reserve will paralyze the health sector and the remaining operational ambulances; thus depriving civilians of minimum healthcare services. In addition, hospitals and medical centers in the Gaza Strip are suffering from the absence of staff due to their inability to reach their workplaces. As a result, the operation of these institutions is threatened at a time of escalated Israeli military activity inside the Gaza Strip.
In Light of this situation, PCHR affirms that the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip is a form of collective punishment and reprisal action by IOF against Palestinian civilians. These crimes are a violation of International Humanitarian Law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), and International Human Rights Law, especially the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
PCHR reiterates the call to the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention (1949), to break their silence and pressure Israel to uplift the siege and suffering of the 1.5 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip. The Centre calls for pressuring Israel to allow the immediate and safe passage of basic needs to the Gaza Strip including fuel, food, and medical supplies. The Centre reminds these parties of their legal obligation to ensure the respect of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.