Aviram Zino
April 29, 2008 - 5:34pm

Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations issued a joint statement Tuesday, demanding that Israel lift all the restrictions imposed on the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip.

According to the statement, these restrictions "severely and unprecedentedly harm the health and welfare of the Strip's residents," while "seriously violating international law."

Blockade   World Bank: Israel limits impact of aid to Palestinians / Reuters   Despite $7.7 billion in aid pledged to Palestinians, economic growth in PA muted due to Israeli-imposed restrictions on travel and trade, new World Bank survey reveals. Figures show 96% of industrial operations in Gaza suspended Full story   In the statement, the groups expressed their "deep concern and harsh protest in light of the systematic harm caused to vital civil systems in the Gaza Strip, which are facing a complete collapse due to the limitation of the amounts of fuel Israel has been allowing the residents and institutions in the Gaza Strip to purchase for six months now.

"The fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip, which is under Israeli occupation and which Israel is responsible for by proxy of occupation laws, harms the electricity production in the Strip, as well as the activity of hospitals, private and public transportation, the water pumps and sewerages.

"The shortage damages the social and economic basic needs of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza," the statement said.

The rights organizations also mentioned the harm caused to Israeli civilians, calling on "militant groups in Gaza to refrain from attacking civilians, including in the crossings through which fuel, food and other goods are transferred into the Gaza Strip."

In the beginning of the month, a leading health organization said that dozens of Gaza residents have died waiting for medical treatment because of delays to obtain permits to enter Israel, combined with a crumbling health system in Gaza.

The United Nation's World Health Organization listed 32 cases since October last year in which Gaza residents, ranging from a 1-year-old child to a 77-year-old man, died because they could not obtain urgent medical treatment 

Six were waiting for Israeli authorities to issue a permit to enter, according to the WHO report. It said others were denied permits because they were considered a security risk to Israel - including a 65-year-old woman. Others had obtained a permit but died while waiting for security coordination to cross into Israel, the report said.

Colonel Nir Press, head of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said it was impossible to speed up the permit process because of security needs. 'They (Hamas) use humanitarian needs to attack us. We have to check every request,'' Press said.



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