Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gaza: Israel's Energy Cuts Violate Laws of War


To my mind, terrorism takes many forms. This is definitely one of them.

Israel isn't just making life unpleasant, uncomfortable, inconvenient for the people in Gaza. Its killing them.
Israel's cuts of fuel and electricity to Gaza, set to escalate today, amount to collective punishment of the civilian population, and violate Israel's obligations under the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today.

These cuts, which Israel says are intended to pressure Palestinian armed groups to end their unlawful rocket attacks against civilians in southern Israel, are having a grave impact on Gaza's hospitals, water-pumping stations, sewage-treatment facilities, and other infrastructure essential for the well-being of Gaza's population.

Starting today, Israel will reduce the electricity it sells directly to Gaza by 1.5 megawatts over the next three weeks. This adds to a series of Israeli measures since 2006 that have caused a 20 percent shortfall in Gaza's electricity needs. The Israeli Supreme Court approved the most recent cuts last week, rejecting a petition by 10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups.

"Israel views restricting fuel and electricity to Gaza as a way to pressure Palestinian armed groups to stop their rocket and suicide attacks," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "But the cuts are seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed groups, and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war."

Human Rights Watch said that indiscriminate Palestinian rocket and suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians constitute war crimes, but Israel's attempts to suppress those attacks must not also violate international humanitarian law.

Israeli officials have implicitly acknowledged that the fuel and electricity cuts amount to collective punishment. "There is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards at Sderot and other communities in the south," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on January 24.

Morever [sic], Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said on January 18: "If Palestinians don't stop the violence, I have a feeling the life of people in Gaza is not going to be easy."

Human Rights Watch is correct. The indiscriminate Palestinian rocket and suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians constitute war crimes. There's no doubt about that, but they are also correct in saying Israel's attempts to suppress those attacks must not also violate international humanitarian law.

Via Reuters.

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