Most of Gaza’s factories have closed and its water is polluted as a result of Israel’s siege policy, according to a new report being released today by the Israeli Human Rights group – B’tselem.
The siege policy has “led to economic collapse in Gaza,” B’tselem noted in a 44-page report (PDF) that looked at Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the period from January 2009 to the end of April 2010.
Following is a summery of this report:
- The prohibition on bringing in raw materials and exports into Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in June 2007, forced 95 percent of the factories and workshops in the area to close.
- Before 2007, 4,000 types of goods were let into Gaza, compared with less than 150 that come in now. Among the restricted items are building materials such as iron and cement, which are needed to rebuild the 3,500 homes destroyed during last Israeli assault on Gaza – Operation Cast Lead.
- The quantity of goods that comes through the crossings is less than one-quarter of what entered prior to the siege.
- Before 2007, 70 trucks laden with export goods such as furniture, clothing and produce left Gaza daily for Israel. Now, only the export of strawberries and flowers to Europe is allowed in “certain instances”. Goods are coming into Gaza through a system of tunnels set up under the border with Egypt, although the system is not enough to revive Gaza’s economy.
- Electricity is a problem in Gaza. 98% of the residents suffer from blackouts ranging from eight to ten hours a day, while the remaining 2% do not receive any electricity at all.
- The power outages due to lack of fuel and spare parts have prevented the proper operation of wells and desalination plants.
- At the end of 2009, studies showed that 93% percent of the Gaza Strip’s water was polluted, with high quantities of chloride and nitrates.
- “The water supply is defective and thousands of residents are not even connected to the water grid. Waste treatment has also been affected. Every day, some 100,000 cubic meters of untreated or partially untreated waste-water flow into the sea.”
- A lack of pesticides and spare parts for irrigation systems makes it hard for farmers. Those with land near the border with Israel can no longer farm because access is forbidden or restricted, and those who violate these orders risk being shot.
- Fisherman cannot go out farther than three nautical miles, which limits the Strip’s fish supply.
- The number of Palestinian fatalities at the hands of the IOF dropped from 456 in 2008 to 83 from January 21, 2009, through the end of April 2010. These numbers do not include Palestinian deaths that occurred during Operation Cast Lead.
- The report noted that Israel demolitions had continued in Area C of the West Bank, where from January 2009 to the end of April 2010, the occupation forces had destroyed 44 residential structures. The demolitions left 317 Palestinians homeless.
- In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 48 buildings in east Jerusalem. The demolitions left 247 Palestinians homeless.
- The report notes that the IOF had not stop building settlements and no outposts been removed.
- According to the report, very few IOF or police investigations into allegations of wrongdoing against Palestinians had actually lead to convictions. From the start of the second intifada in September 2000 to the end of April 2010, B’tselem reported 255 cases of violence to the military advocate-general’s office. Only 11 indictments were filed, and one of those was canceled.
- During that same period, B’tselem turned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department concerning 180 cases of violence, but only 12 indictments were filed.
- Since September 2000, B’tselem has submitted 220 complaints to the Israel Police, demanding investigations of cases where Israelis harmed Palestinians or damaged their property. Only nine of these complaints resulted in indictments.
B’tselem executive director Jessica Montell said that the report was being released to mark “the 43rd anniversary” of the end of the Six Day War, which marked “the beginning” of Israel’s occupation.
“The ongoing occupation both violates” Palestinian rights and “poses clear dangers for Israel’s democracy,” Montell said. “For this reason we as Israelis must demand accountability for actions taken in our name in the occupied territories and work to change in policies that infringe human rights.”