Rights group: 80% of Gaza civilians need aid

Turkel Commission to hear about treatment of flotilla participants, humanitarian situation in Strip.

greece aid to gaza 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
greece aid to gaza 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Eighty percent of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip is dependent on humanitarian aid, while the number of unemployed has increased by 40% over the past three years, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said in a report presented Monday to the Turkel Commission.
The commission of inquiry into the May 31 flotilla incident also announced on Monday that Justice Ministry Director of Enforcement and Foreign Nationals Yossi Edelstein would appear before it on October 12 to testify about the treatment of flotilla participants from their arrival in Ashdod harbor until their deportation from Israel.
On the following day, representatives of three human rights organizations – PHR, Gisha and B’Tselem – will appear before the committee to discuss the humanitarian aspects of the blockade and other restrictions on the import of goods to the Gaza Strip.
The PHR report was submitted to the Turkel Commission to prepare its members for the organization’s upcoming testimony.
According to PHR, 61% of the Gaza population (973,600 residents) suffers from nourishment insecurity. This figure has increased by 20% since 2003, the report said.
The number of children suffering from growth problems – including being underweight or short, or having a problematic relationship between height, weight and age – increased by 150% between 2007 and 2009, the group reported.
In addition, it said, as much as 90% to 95% of the water from the underground aquifer in Gaza may be unsuitable for drinking. Part of the reason for this is Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinians to import spare parts to repair the water and sewage infrastructures that were damaged during the fighting in Operation Cast Lead, PHR said.
Between September 2009 and the flotilla incident in May of this year, there was a monthly shortage of about 100 medicines and hundreds of types of medical equipment. Even today, the report noted, Israel will not allow what it describes as dual-use (civilian and military) equipment into Gaza, including x-ray machines, radioactive materials for radiation and CAT scans, and equipment for surgical and heart bypass operations.
Meanwhile, Gisha issued a statement on Monday saying it would tell the commission that the naval blockade “was and is illegal because it is motivated not just by security considerations, but also by a desire to exert pressure on the civilian population in Gaza as part of a policy of collective punishment.”
According to Gisha, the blockade is part of Israel’s program to wage economic warfare against the Hamas regime.
“International law permits restrictions whose purpose is to prevent the entrance of war material, but does not allow Israel to prevent the passage of goods which are clearly civilian in nature,” the organization wrote.