Under international law, Israel is considered an occupying power in Gaza, even though it has removed its troops and settlers. Denying civilians access to the necessities of life is considered collective punishment and a violation of international law under both the Hague and Geneva conventions although the amounts involved could be subject to dispute. Electricity, water and gasoline are considered by many, like the Israeli rights lobbying organizations B’Tselem and Gisha, as well as Oxfam and other groups, to be necessities. But the United States argued, when it bombed power plants in Belgrade during the Kosovo war, that electricity furthered Serbia’s war effort; Israel argued similarly when it bombed Gaza’s main power station in July 2006, after the capture of one of its soldiers.
“Regardless of how they might cloak it, cutting off electricity to a civilian population is collective punishment and a violation of international law,” said Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem. “It doesn’t really make a difference whether it’s cutting off the supply from Israel or bombing the power station.”
Israel says it would not cut off water, but most of Gaza’s water is indigenous, pumped from wells with electricity; electricity also is important for sewage treatment, Ms. Michaeli said. She condemned the Qassam rockets and said that Israel was legally obligated to defend Israelis, but not by violating international law. [complete article]
Hamas denounced as a “declaration of war” the Wednesday decision of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet to declare Gaza a “hostile entity” and to approve curbs in electricity and fuel supplies to the population of the strip.
“They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference,” said Hamas spokesman Barhoum, referring to a U.S.-sponsored meeting expected to be held in two months.
“It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people.” [complete article]
According to the findings of Palestinian human rights organizations, hundreds of Hamas activists have been arrested, and are still being arrested, in blatant violation of Palestinian law, and by some security forces who do not have the authority to make arrests. Reports from Nablus speak of security personnel who are waiting, with the advent of Ramadan, outside the mosques in order to arrest Hamas activists after evening prayers. Disturbing testimony is piling up that speaks of the severe torture of some detainees – a few of whom required hospitalization. Revenge and intimidation are the name of the game. Some of those released testified that they had been forced to sign a promise to keep completely silent about their experiences during their detention. The arrests are part of a whole complex of offensive tactics: shootings of Hamas activists; attacks, including arson, on Hamas offices; threats to Hamas representatives on local councils, to journalists and members of parliament; and infringement of freedom of the press (including blocking the distribution in the West Bank of the two Hamas newspapers). [complete article]