The Israeli authorities have reduced the amounts of wheat allowed into the Gaza Strip. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), lower quantities of wheat grain and animal feed have been allowed to enter Gaza during the past few months. Between January and May 2010 the 64,237 tons were allowed to enter Gaza through a special conveyer belt at Karni Crossing. Since June 2010, the Israeli authorities allowed only 48,609 tons into Gaza.
Wheat is allowed to enter Gaza only through the Karni Crossing. This crossing operates for two days a week. The conveyer belt used to bring in wheat grain during the two days it opened. However, Israel has started to allocate only one day for wheat grain and animal feed while the other day has been allocated to bring in construction materials for approved housing projects implemented by UN agencies. Al Mezan is concerned by the ongoing decline in the amounts of wheat grain and animal feed allowed to enter Gaza under the siege conditions that continue to reflect insensitivity toward the needs and welfare of Gaza population.
The reduction of amounts of wheat and animal feed harms the direct humanitarian needs of Gaza population. During the past years, the Israeli continuous closures imposed on the Gaza Strip have prevented Palestinians from keeping any strategic stockpile of basic commodities; including wheat grain. Within a few days the signs of scarcity of wheat and animal feed started to appear in Gaza. Lines of people waiting for bread in front of bakeries have started to form around Gaza’s towns and refugee camps. The prices of meat and chicken; already expensive for most of Gaza’s impoverished population, have also started to increase.
Other human rights problems are also caused by the reduction of these two commodities; including an increase in poverty and unemployment. Many Palestinians have lost their jobs in work related these materials. According to information obtained by Al Mezan, Gaza’s six mills have run out of the wheat grain stocks and decreased their working hours by half. Livestock and animal breeders have also made plans to reduce their production in order to avoid dramatic losses due to death of their birds and animals or high prices of animal feed.
Israel has continued to close all of Gaza’s crossings and prevent free movement for people, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the Strip. In particular, tens of thousands families who houses were destroyed by the Israeli forces continue to suffer from the lack of construction materials. This situation foils the efforts to improve the economic and social conditions in Gaza, especially throughout reducing poverty and unemployment rates which have reached points that are among the lowest internationally.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its concern by the situation described above. It strongly condemns the collective punishment measures imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip, which affects civilian life, but particularly impacts heavily upon the poor, the sick and children. Al Mezan asserts that the ongoing Israeli siege and the restriction of the movement of civilians and commodities; including construction materials, food, health-related materials, provides yet further evidence that the siege of Gaza is continuing and devastating the human rights of its population.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community to intervene to secure a full lifting of the Israeli illegal siege on Gaza. Movement of people and commodities in and from the Gaza Strip must be ensured without restrictions. The international community must not tolerate the siege measures, nor should it accept an 'easing’ of the siege, which has proved to represent only an entrenching of the siege.