Why can Gazans get mops, not vinegar?

Court gives government 30 days to explain restrictions on importing humanitarian aid into Strip.

Why does allow flour into the Gaza Strip but prohibit vinegar and coriander? Why did itsuddenly drop the ban on the import of diapers, mops, black pepper and savorytwo months ago? How does preventing shoes and children's toys from entering enhance 's security? These are someof the questions which human rights organization Gisha - for Freedom of Movement said on Wednesday it hopes to receive answers to in thewake of a decision on Thursday by the Tel Aviv District Court.

The court gave the state 30 days to produce documents requested by thepetitioner under the Freedom of Information Act or to explain why it refused todo so.

In the petition, Gisha told the court it had written to Defense MinisterEhud Barak on April 22, 2009, asking which criteria were used to definehumanitarian supplies, what were the regulations guiding the work of theCoordinator of Activities in the Territories and whether there were lists ofcommodities permitted or prohibited from export to .

Gisha charged that the Defense Ministry provided incomplete answers to itsquestions. On June 14 it presented a long list of questions and requestedanswers in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law.

Among the questions: What are humanitarian supplies? Are there criteria fordetermining what constitutes humanitarian supplies? Is there a list ofcommodities that are prohibited from entering ? What are the regulations for examiningrequests to bring in supplies to ?Gisha charged that the Defense Ministry gave it the run-around for severalmonths and did not reply to the questions.

In one of its letters asking for a progress report from the DefenseMinistry, Gisha also asked it to provide the so-called "red-lines"document, which allegedly determined the minimum nutrition level required tosustain the Palestinian population in Gaza and included detailed tables on thenumber of calories and grams of each type of food which should be madeavailable to the Gaza residents according to age and sex.

Reports that such a "red-line" document existed first appeared ina newspaper report on June 15, 2009.

After failing to receive a response to its questions, Gisha petitioned theTel Aviv District Court in October to order the Defense Ministry to provide theinformation in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The state finally replied to Gisha's questions on January 13. Regarding the"red lines" document, Guy Inbar, the spokesman of the Coordinator ofActivities wrote, "There is no official red-lines document. Your requestmight refer to one of several drafts of internal staff memos written about thismatter and regarding which there is no obligation by law to make themavailable. The office of the Coordinator of Activities examines therequirements of the population all the time."

The court found the state's response to the petition unsatisfactory and gaveit 30 days to either produce the documents or explain why it refused to do so.