“They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference.” Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for Hamas
Update: Gaza is completely sealed off from the world now, with no water, gas, or electric power, according to today’s (Sept 19) broadcast of KPFA’s Flashpoints (15 minutes into program).
Aljazeera, Sept 19, 2007
Israel’s security cabinet has declared the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity”, opening the way for cuts in fuel and other vital supplies to the territory.
Hamas issued a statement in response, saying that the security cabinet’s announcement on Wednesday amounted to a “declaration of war”.
The office of Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, said his security cabinet approved the “enemy entity” classification and there would be “limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity”.
Tensions have been on the rise in the area since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June.
Israel said its move, coinciding with a visit to the region by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to promote a US-proposed Middle East peace conference, was a response to frequent cross-border rocket fire by armed groups in Gaza.
At a joint news conference with Rice in Occupied Jerusalem on Wednesday, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said the Israeli cabinet “made this decision according to our legal advisers, so it is according to international law”.
Livni said any moves to turn off the taps “is not going to affect the humanitarian situation in the Gaza”, but cautioned that “all the needs that are more than the humanitarian needs will not be supplied by Israel to the Gaza Strip”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on the Israeli announcement, Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator and spokesman for the West Bank-based government, called the Israeli move “illegal and null and void”.
“I believe Gaza and West Bank are still under Israeli occupation. Under no circumstances can Israel view it as an ‘enemy entity’. Gaza as not an independent state, Gaza is under occupation,” he said.
“This is a decision in total violation of international law, it is a collective punishment, and a preparation for further military escalation against the 1.5 million people of Gaza.
“At the end of the day, it will not end the cycle of violence but complicate matters and breed more violence.”
Earlier, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Gaza-based Hamas government, told Al Jazeera: “This is a declaration of war against Hamas [at a time when] all the Palestinian military factions are supporting the Hamas resistance project.
“The occupation is targeting Palestinians dead or alive. They want the Palestinian people to revolt against Hamas, to make it weaker.
“But the Palestinian people are supporting Hamas by all means because Hamas continues to refuse to recognise this occupation or end its resistance programme.”
With Israel maintaining tight control over Gaza’s borders, air space and coastal waters, as well as withholding Palestinian tax revenue, the strip is largely reliant on Israel for utilities and humanitarian aid imports.
Olmert’s office said his security cabinet approved the “enemy entity” classification and there would be “limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity”.
It said the sanctions would be implemented after the Israeli authorities examined the legal and humanitarian ramifications.
By formally defining the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity, Israel could argue that it cannot be bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply power to the its population of 1.5 million.
Hamas forces, which seized control of Gaza in June after fighting with the rival Fatah faction, have been bracing for a broader Israeli offensive, particularly since a rocket struck an Israeli military base last week, wounding around three dozen soldiers.
Three Palestinian factions on Wendesday said that they have fired rockets at Israeli targets near Gaza Strip in retaliation for “Israeli occupation crimes”.
In a joint statement, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, have said that their fighters targeted an Israeli intelligence base at Kisovim crossing, south of the Gaza Strip and another post near al-Bureij refugee camp, east Gaza Strip.
Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility for targeting Sderot.
The Israeli military confirmed that Sderot had been targeted.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
AlJazerra, Sept 19, 2007
The UN has urged Israel to reconsider its decision to declare the Gaza Strip as an “enemy entity”, warning that cutting vital services would violate international law.
The Israeli move to cut off the power, water and fuel supplies on which Gaza is almost entirely dependent was backed by the United States on Wednesday.
The Israeli prime minister’s office said Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet had approved the “enemy entity” classification and there would be “limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity”.
The move is seen as retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said Wednesday’s declaration intended to interrupt essential services could exacerbate the Palestinians’ difficult conditions.
“Such a step would be contrary to Israel’s obligations towards the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law,” he said on Wednesday.
Ban said 1.4 million people in Gaza, including the old, the very young and the sick were already suffering and “should not be punished for the unacceptable actions of militants and extremists”.
At the same time he said continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel was unacceptable, calling “for it to stop immediately”.
“I understand Israel’s security concerns over this matter,” he added.
Israel’s move on Gaza was backed by the US on Wednesday, with Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, saying the Hamas was “a hostile entity to the US as well”.
Speaking in a joint press conference with Livni in occupied Jerusalem, she said the US, however, would not “abandon the innocent Palestinians”.
“We will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in Gaza and indeed will make every effort to deal with their humanitarian needs,” she said.
Rice is on a visit to the Middle East in preparation for a US-led peace conference between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Israelis and Palestinians, however, have very different expectations of the talks.
Israeli leaders are seeking a softer joint declaration rather than a binding deal while the Palestinians are pushing for a firmer “framework agreement” on core issues of borders, the status of Jerusalem and refugees.
‘Declaration of war’
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said the Israeli cabinet “made this decision according to our legal advisers, so it is according to international law”.
But Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian negotiator and spokesman for the West Bank-based government, told Al Jazeera the Israeli move was “illegal and null and void”.
“I believe Gaza and West Bank are still under Israeli occupation. Under no circumstances can Israel view it as an ‘enemy entity’. Gaza is not an independent state, Gaza is under occupation,” he said.
Erekat said Israel was in “total violation of international law” and described the move as “a collective punishment and a preparation for further military escalation against the 1.5 million people of Gaza”.
“At the end of the day, it will not end the cycle of violence but complicate matters and breed more violence,” he added.