This reports reviews the consequences of the total siege imposed by Israeli occupation forces (IOF) – including closure of border crossings – on the Gaza Strip. It covers the period between 25 December 2008 and 10 March 2009. In the beginning of the reporting period, IOF launched a 22 day military offensive on the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009). During this offensive, IOF killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians, and injured more that 5,300 others. In addition, hundreds of civilian objects and facilities – including, houses, factories, educational institutions, mosques, farms, and humanitarian and medical institutions – were destroyed.
The IOF offensive was launched against the backdrop of an unprecedented total and strict closure imposed on Gaza’s border crossings, including crossings dedicated for the movement of civilians and those dedicated for the movement of goods.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has investigated the recent Israeli military offensive’s disastrous impact on the humanitarian conditions of Gaza’s civilians. PCHR notes that the civilian population of the Gaza Strip have been subject to intense procedures of collective punishment; measures explicitly prohibited by international human rights and humanitarian law, notably Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949). IOF have continued to deny civilians access to essential medical and food consignments and to the materials required to reconstruct the civilian facilities damaged and destroyed in the recent offensive.
IOF claim to have facilitated movement through Gaza’s border crossings during the 76-day reporting period, in this report, PCHR strongly refute this claim.
This report also reviews the continued deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in view of the complete ban on imports of construction materials. Construction materials constitute a pressing and urgent need; civilian objects and facilities destroyed in the recent IOF offensive must be rebuilt. Gaza civilians, especially those thousands made homeless following the destruction of their homes, have continued to suffer as they wait for the reconstruction materials necessary to rebuild their lives and their livelihoods. This report is published at a time when the Gaza Strip is undergoing a pressing fuel crisis due to the almost total blockade of fuel supplies, especially cooking gas. Households depend on cooking gas to prepare food, while Gaza’s bakeries depend on it to produce bread for the civilian population.
During the recent IOF offensive, which is covered in this report, all Gaza’s flourmills ran out of flour and wheat. The majority of Gaza’s towns and refugee camps plunged into total darkness. Due to the suspension of industrial fuel supplies required to operate the Gaza Power Plant, approximately 50% of Gaza’s population lived without electricity for approximately two weeks, while the other 50% of the population suffered electricity cuts for more than 16 hours per day during the offensive. During the offensive, IOF targeted power networks and transformers, while technical personnel from the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) were unable to repair disruptions due to a lack of spare parts and dangerous security conditions. Hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza were denied access to water, including drinking water, for several days.