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The humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, is in a constant state of deterioration, as Israel, the occupying Power, continues to commit grave breaches of its responsibilities and obligations under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. While the rhetoric of the occupying Power has taken on a deceivingly more positive tone, since our last letter, dated 26 October 2007, the actual situation on the ground has deteriorated further as a result of its unlawful policies and practices.
The recent international show of support and commitment to peace in the Middle East has been gaining momentum, as reflected in the convening of the international conference at Annapolis, Maryland, on 27 November 2007. Unfortunately, however, Israel, the occupying Power, has responded to the international goodwill by continuing to take actions on the ground against the Palestinian people, violating their basic human rights and indicating that its intentions are contrary to its peace rhetoric.
In flagrant violation of international law, following its declaration of the Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity” in September 2007, the occupying Power continues to take measures to intensify its siege of the Gaza Strip and to collectively punish the entire Palestinian civilian population there. Israel has persisted in its closure of border crossings into and out of the Gaza Strip, obstructing the access and movement of people and goods, including humanitarian, food, medical and building supplies. Moreover, Israel has followed through with its threats to cut fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, and, as a result, more than 70 per cent of the fuel stations in Gaza have shut down due to lack of fuel and 50 per cent of cars have stopped running, with serious consequences for the living conditions of the civilian population.
It is very disturbing that the Israeli Supreme Court has actually ruled that Israel can limit fuel supplies to Gaza as a means of pressure. It is also disturbing that it is considering a similar plan to cut electricity supply, and has requested the State to submit a detailed plan on the matter. In the meantime, it is blocking the plan. The decision by the Court to permit the State to carry out such inhumane punitive measures is completely contrary to international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, unjust and morally unacceptable. Such decisions and measures by Israel, the occupying Power, should be rejected and condemned by the international community, and Israel should be called upon immediately to comply with all of its legal obligations under international law, including to the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation in the Gaza Strip.
Overall, the continuing siege, the reduction of fuel supplies and threats of complete cessation of fuel delivery from Israel, the only source from which the Palestinian people are able to receive fuel, is having and will have an extremely detrimental impact on numerous sectors, including health care, sanitation and environmental services, transportation, education, commerce, industrial production, agriculture and, of course, the daily home life of the Palestinian civilian population. It is necessary to refer to the fact that the siege of Gaza has resulted in the closure of over 75 per cent of industries in the Gaza Strip, adding at least 120,000 Gaza residents to the list of the unemployed. Every sector of the economy is suffering as the occupying Power has decided to allow the population in Gaza access only to what it deems “basic goods”, which, as recent reports indicate, does not include almost half of the usual food products Gaza used to import. Not on the list of basic goods that Palestinians are entitled to are dairy products, baby food, winter clothes, and many other goods that in any modern society would be taken for granted.
At the same time, Palestinian patients and the entire medical sector in the Gaza Strip have suffered immeasurably and at times irreversibly because of this policy of starvation and humiliation. Hospitals report severe shortages of vital medical supplies, some in zero supply. This unacceptable situation has forced hospitals to conduct only medically urgent surgeries. Dialysis patients and other patients who require constant care are suffering from the domino effect of the overall situation in Gaza, where power cuts and fuel shortages have made reaching the dialysis wards a daunting task and have affected the hours of their operation and services. These patients and many who remain waiting are being denied their basic right to life-saving medical treatment as a result of a morally repugnant act that contravenes international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
Clearly, the continuation of such illegal measures by the occupying Power will only cause further deterioration of the prevailing grave humanitarian situation, with both short and long-term negative consequences for the civilian population, the stability of the area and the prospects for peace.
Israel also continues to pursue its illegal colonization activities in the West Bank via its illegal construction of settlements and the wall. Today, the Israeli Ministry of Housing announced its intention to build an additional 307 housing units in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa, built in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim, in complete defiance of international law, United Nations resolutions and its commitments under the framework of the peace process, including under the Quartet road map, most recently reaffirmed at Annapolis on 27 November 2007.
Moreover, in the past month, Israeli occupying forces have killed at least 31 Palestinians in various acts of violence, including extrajudicial executions, military incursions and air strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the occupying forces continue to routinely conduct raids into Palestinian cities, towns and villages, undermining the Palestinian Authority and its efforts to enforce the rule of law. In Gaza, an additional 29 Palestinians have also paid with their precious lives because of the draconian and illegal Israeli policy of siege against Gaza, as those patients died while awaiting the “security permission” of the occupying Power to have access to medical treatment not available in isolated and impoverished Gaza.
Over the past seven years, Israel, the occupying Power, has used a number of pretexts to justify its use of such illegal policies against the Palestinian civilian population, including the illegal policies of extrajudicial execution and strangulating siege. However, in the past six months, Israel’s intensifying and crippling siege of the Gaza Strip has overstepped all boundaries and violated all norms and principles of international law, with devastating consequences unjustified under any pretext the occupying Power may think of using. These Israeli practices are quickly turning the entire Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million residents into a population completely dependant on handouts and aid for its very survival. The humanitarian situation is on the brink of collapse, and it is no longer acceptable or excusable for the international community to stand by and allow this reprehensible violation of international law and human rights to continue.
The international community, including the Security Council, bears clear responsibilities in this regard. Moreover, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention bear additional responsibility to uphold and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, should be no exception.
In closing, I wish to reiterate that the recent gained momentum in peace efforts and talks on the Palestinian-Israeli track does not absolve the occupying Power from the obligation to respect international law and does not offer Israel a free human rights violation pass; nor does it preclude the moral and legal obligations of the international community to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to call for Israel to respect and comply with all of its obligations under international law. Such compliance and respect, in tandem with progress made in resumed direct bilateral negotiations, are what will truly bring about a change in the situation on the ground and in the lives of the people and what will truly advance the peace process.
This letter is in follow-up to our previous 300 letters to you regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000. These letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 26 October 2007 (A/ES-10/404-S/2007/634), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
In follow-up to the above-mentioned letters, it is my deep regret to inform you that at least 52 more Palestinian civilians, including children, have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces, raising the total number of martyrs killed since September 2000 to 4,783. (The names of the martyrs who have been identified are listed in the annex to the present letter.)
I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the present letter and its annex distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.