Palestinians walk past trucks loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip December 30, 2012..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United Nations has warned of a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip after Israel temporarily banned the entry of gas and fuel through the Kerem Shalom crossing until Sunday.
Israel will continue to allow vital food and medicine to pass through the coastal enclave’s main commercial crossing on a case-by-case basis.
Those restrictions, along with last week ban on commercial goods, are compounded by Egypt’s closure this week of its Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Israel also halved Gaza fishermen’s zone to three nautical miles.
The result? Gaza’s 2,000,000 people have been cut off and left landlocked, with no other options for the flow of goods.
The steps come as the UN and Egypt push for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and as Israel prepares to go to war – if necessary – to prevent Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from launching rockets and incendiary devices into southern Israel.
Palestinian fighters in Gaza fired a barrage of 200 rockets and mortars into southern Israel over the weekend.
Israel's weekend in 60 seconds- 200 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, July 15, 2018 (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and called for urgent action.
“The situation in Gaza is extremely precarious. I am deeply concerned about the imposition of further restrictions at Kerem Shalom, which is the lifeline for Gaza’s population.
“Should they continue, these additional restrictions risk triggering a dramatic deterioration in an already fragile situation and desperate humanitarian conditions, particularly for the health sector,” McGoldrick warned.
The fuel ban is particularly problematic, he noted, because that diesel powers privately-owned generators used by Gaza residents to make up for the lack of electricity provided by regular turbines. Gaza residents only receive electricity four hours a day.
The UN said that as a result, more than 220 health, water and sanitation facilities depend “on donor-funded emergency fuel to power back-up generators to deliver essential services.”
Emergency fuel supplies will run out in about a week, the UN warned.
“We are steps away from a disastrous deterioration, with potential broad impacts not only on Palestinians in Gaza, but the region. Everyone with the ability to improve the situation must take a step back, prevent further escalation, and reduce the suffering of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza,” McGoldrick said.
Twelve NGOs on Tuesday called on Israel to lift its newly-imposed Kerem Shalom restrictions. The agencies included Adalah, Amnesty International Israel, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights, Yesh Din and Gisha — Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.
According to Gisha, Israel on Tuesday turned back a scheduled shipment of 38,000 liters of diesel destined for UNRWA in Gaza.
Hamas called Israel’s import restrictions on Gaza a “crime against humanity.” It warned that the decision would have “serious consequences.”
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Kanou said that the decision reflects Israel’s “bad intention” and plan to “commit more crimes against the Palestinians.”
Kanou called on the international community to “break its silence towards Israeli crimes against humanity.”
Another Hamas spokesman, Hazem Qassem, also denounced the decision as a “crime,” saying it was in violation of all international laws and conventions.
The restrictions, he said, are an expression of “political idiocy” and won’t affect the Palestinians’ struggle and resolve to pursue freedom.
Israel imposes an air and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. Goods and pedestrians may only enter and exit Israel through the land crossings at Kerem Shalom and Erez.
The former is equipped to handle Gaza’s commercial and humanitarian needs while Erez and the Rafah crossing into Egypt’s Sinai primarily accommodate pedestrian traffic.
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