Gaza City, 19, 3, 2006– The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, UN agencies and all international humanitarian organizations, to take effective measures to force Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to allow the immediate flow of food, especially flour and milk, into the Gaza Strip through al-Mentar (Karni) crossing. PCHR also warns the international community of the consequences of the policy of collective punishment practiced by IOF against the Palestinian civilian population, which has peaked with the prohibition of the flow of wheat, flour and other basic foodstuffs into the markets of the Gaza Strip following the closure of al-Mentar crossing, which may lead to food and health crises for at least 1.5 million Palestinians.
PCHR follows with utmost concern the deterioration in the economic and social conditions resulting from the total closure imposed by IOF on the OPT, especially the Gaza Strip. PCHR is concerned for the deterioration in food and health conditions of the Palestinian civilian population as bread and flour have almost run out in the markets of the Gaza Strip, where most bakeries have stopped working due to the lack of flour. Hundreds of Palestinians have been seen standing in long queues in front of some bakeries, which have continued to work but with minimum capacity, to buy bread for their families. This scene is unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.
According to information available to PCHR, since 14 January 2006, IOF have closed al-Mentar (Karni) crossing for 47 separate days completely and for 4 days partially. During partial closures, IOF allowed the importation of basic foodstuffs only into the Gaza Strip. Importation of construction raw materials, medicines and others goods through the crossing has been banned. As a result of the closure of the crossing, the local markets have run out of some foodstuffs, especially milk, flour, sugar, dairy products and fruits. Exportation of agricultural and industrial products from the Gaza Strip has been banned. Palestinian farmers and traders have sustained large losses due to the blockade of their products at the Palestinian side of the crossing, as the closure coincides with the season of exportation of strawberries, flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Construction projects in the Gaza Strip have also stopped due to the lack of construction raw materials.
In addition, IOF have continued to close Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafah, which is designated for the importation of construction raw materials into the Gaza Strip, since 14 February 2006. They have also prevented Palestinian workers from reaching their work places inside Israel through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, including newly elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and especially those from the Change and Reform list of Hamas, have been prevented from traveling through this crossing.
PCHR calls upon the international community, including governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organizations, to immediately intervene and pressure IOF to allow the immediate flow of medicines and food into the Gaza Strip, implementing the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the international human rights and humanitarian instruments, including Israel, of their obligations to ensure that:
* "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
* "2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. 3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations." (Article 1 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
* "1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent. 2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed: .. (b) Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need." (Article 11 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
* "1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited. 2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive." (Article 54 of Protocol 1 of 1977 Additional to the Geneva Convention)
* "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited." (Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949)
* "To the fullest extent of the means available to it the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate. The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, except for use by the occupation forces and administration personnel, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account. Subject to the provisions of other international Conventions, the Occupying Power shall make arrangements to ensure that fair value is paid for any requisitioned goods. The Protecting Power shall, at any time, be at liberty to verify the state of the food and medical supplies in occupied territories, except where temporary restrictions are made necessary by imperative military requirements." (Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949