The severe and organised humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Gaza Strip as a direct result of Israel’s siege, escalating attacks against the Palestinian people, the necessity of national unity and the obligation of the international community to act were the key points addressed by PNI Secretary General Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, together with Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, at a press conference held today in Ramallah.
Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip and Impending Collapse of the Health System
Dr. Barghouthi described the extent of the humanitarian disaster facing Gaza after Israel imposed a total lockdown on the Strip last Friday, which has meant a freeze on all movement in and out of the Strip, including shipments of food, fuel, and medicine. Gaza’s only power plant shut down on Sunday due to a shortage of fuel, leaving 800,000 people in darkness and without heating at the height of the winter season.
He also explained that the health system in the Gaza Strip is on the brink of collapse, and is now relying wholly on emergency generators which are running on limited fuel reserves. Furthermore, the inability to treat sewage and waste water and to deliver clean drinking water without electricity, bring about the very real possibility of an epidemic in the Gaza Strip. Dr. Barghouthi stressed that this would be extremely difficult to control in the current circumstances and must be prevented.
“In practical terms, what these electricity and fuel cuts mean is that hospitals will be forced to suspend their activities. There will be no electricity to power incubators for newborns, to power the heart monitors of intensive care patients, to provide light and electricity for surgical operations, to power dialysis machines for kidney patients, to power ultrasound machines to monitor the health of pregnant women and their babies, or simply to provide heating for patients in their hospital beds,” said Dr. Barghouthi.
“Jeopardising the lives and wellbeing of 1.5 million Gazans is nothing less than a war crime under international law,” he went on, pointing to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed.”
219% Surge in Number of Palestinians Killed by Israel since Annapolis
Dr. Barghouthi also addressed the intensification of Israel’s attacks against, and killings of Palestinians since Annapolis, revealing that there has been a massive 219% increase in the number of Palestinians killed since Annapolis.
(28 November 2007 – 20 January 2008)
Total GS WB
# of Palestinians killed 146 136
(1 child) 10
# of Palestinians injured 496 360
(6 children) 136
# of Palestinians arrested 807 76 731
# of Israeli military attacks 675 415 260
# of Israelis killed 2
(2 soldiers) - 2
He highlighted that the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed since Annapolis has risen to 49:1, and to 72:0 since 1 January 2008, up from 4:1 from 2000-2005.
“Annapolis promised peace, yet what we have seen on the ground is nothing but intensified collective punishment and more war crimes.” “Israel is using security as a pretext to step up its aggression against Palestinians and to evade any commitments to peace. It wants Palestinians to abstain from any form of resistance against its occupation - including non-violent resistance – yet it wants to retain the right to attack Palestinians at any time,” he added.
“The silence of parts of the international community in response to Israel’s actions is shameful,” Dr. Barghouthi continued. “Palestinians need the moral solidarity of the international community, but more importantly, they need action. Regional organisations and individual states have an obligation to uphold international law and must pressure Israel to end its deleterious siege and to stop all attacks against the Palestinian people. They should not evade concrete measures, including economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel.”
He added that it is not enough for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to state his concern for Gaza, but that he must raise this issue in the official setting of the UN Security Council.
“We are one people and we will not allow Gaza to be alone. We must be united and continue our struggle,” Dr. Barghouthi concluded.
Call for Solidarity and Action at the National, Regional and International Levels Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, echoed Dr. Barghouthi’s call for national unity and for action at the national, regional and international levels. He urged all political parties to unite and to work together in the collective interests of the Palestinian people, and of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He also specifically called on the Arab world to stand up and speak out against Israel’s occupation and in favour of the rights of the Palestinian people, and repeated Dr. Barghouthi’s appeal to the international community to end its silence and to condemn Israel’s siege on Gaza.
“This is a time to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to convey to the world the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and justice,” he stressed.