(Jerusalem) – Israeli authorities need to immediately restore electricity, water, and fuel to Gaza and allow unhindered humanitarian aid to the population, Human Rights Watch said today.
Restoring electricity and water would meet at least some of Gaza’s enormous humanitarian needs, including in northern Gaza, despite the damage from the Israeli bombardment to the water and electricity infrastructure.
“While aid agencies struggle to squeeze a few trucks of humanitarian aid into southern Gaza via Egypt, the Israeli authorities are keeping their crossings with Gaza closed and refusing to flick the switch for the water and electricity supply,” said Tirana Hassan, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “There is no excuse for denying water, food, and medicine to Gaza’s civilian population. It is cruel and contrary to international law.”
International humanitarian law requires Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian population are provided for. Israel also must facilitate, not block, the delivery of humanitarian aid. Cutting water and electricity to the population amounts to unlawful collective punishment. Under international human rights law, governments must respect the right to water, which includes refraining from limiting access to, or destroying, water services and infrastructure as a punitive measure during armed conflicts.
This is the first time during multiple rounds of hostilities since 2008 that Israel has cut water and electricity supplies to the civilian population and sealed its crossings with Gaza to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“Israeli authorities need to act immediately,” Hassan said. “Lives are hanging in the balance.”