Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bombing of civilian facilities

The Israeli Humna Rights group B'Tselem has raised concerns over Israeli attacks on civilian facilities in Gaza.
B'Tselem today [28th June 2006] sent an urgent request to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz to instruct Israeli forces to refrain from bombing or deliberately damaging in any way facilities that supply indispensable services to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

B'Tselem added that Israel has the right to all legal measures to free the abducted soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. However, Israel must refrain from using measures which contravene International Humanitarian Law, which categorically prohibits all sides to a conflict from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population".
The article specifically mentioned the bombing of the central electricity relay station to the south of Gaza City. When the Israeli government engages in such actvities against the civilian population of Gaza it is in danger of being accused of war crimes. It is also in danger of losing support from supporters outside Israel. And it is danger of pissing off any possible support it may have in Gaza or the West Bank.

Amnesty International USA says:
Israel must now take urgent measures to remedy the long-term damage it has caused and immediately restore the supply -- at its own cost -- of electricity and water to the Palestinian population in the affected areas," urged the organization. "As the occupying power, Israel is bound under international law to protect and safeguard the basic human rights of the Palestinian population."

The deliberate destruction of the Gaza Strip’s only electricity power station, water networks, bridges, roads and other infrastructure is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and has major and long-term humanitarian consequences for the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.

Almost half of Gaza’s inhabitants are now without electricity and water supplies have also been cut in several areas both by the lack of electricity, necessary to operate the water pumps used to extract and deliver water, and by the destruction of water mains as a result of the bombings of bridges and roads.

The extensive damage caused by Israeli artillery and air strikes against these facilities in recent days is estimated at several millions of US dollars and will require months of work to repair. Unless alternative emergency measures are promptly put in place to restore electricity and water supply the consequences could be dire for the health of the Palestinian population.

In a statement the Israeli army said that it had: “…carried out an aerial attack on an electricity transformer station south of Gaza city….” and that “ The IDF will continue to employ all means at its disposal against Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in order to ensure the quick and safe return home of Corporal Gilad Shalit.”
Amnesty go on to argue that "destructon .. of .. bridges and roads is slowing down, but not preventing movement" across the Gaza Strip but it does not stop armed groups moving across the region. Stopping armed groups was a stated ojective of the Israeli military, an objective that is not being met.

Amnesty continue
As the tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and armed groups continues to mount, there is growing concern for the safety of the civilian population. High numbers of Palestinian bystanders, including women and children, have been killed and injured by Israeli artillery shelling and air strikes in recent weeks and months. This situation looks set to worsen in light of the end of the unilateral cease-fire which the armed wing of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups had been observing since last year.

"The hostage-taking of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the killing of Eliyahu Asheri, the 18 year old settler, by Palestinian armed groups violate fundamental principles of international law. Corporal Gilad Shalit should be released immediately and unharmed."

"Both sides to this current stand-off should refrain from taking actions which violate international law and should take steps to provide redress for the abuses they have committed. The international community, also has an obligation under the Geneva Conventions, to act," said Amnesty International
Such is international opinion.

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