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  • ACRI

Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Gaza's Civilian Population

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel joined the petition (Hebrew) filed on March 18, 2024 by Gisha, demanding that humanitarian aid be allowed into the Gaza Strip, with an emphasis on the northern Gaza Strip. HaMoked, Physicians for Human Rights, and Adalah also joined the petition.


The petition described the catastrophic humanitarian situation prevailing in the Gaza Strip, with an emphasis on the shortage of food, clean drinking water, hygiene products, medical equipment and other necessities essential for the survival of the civilian population. It was noted that the average daily number of trucks entering Gaza with food, aid and medicine is significantly lower than the minimum required for the survival of the civilian population and the functioning of essential facilities.


The petitioners argued that the State of Israel is obligated under international law, by the laws of war and the law of occupation, as an occupying power in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel does not meet these obligations. The organizations demanded that Israel allow free, fast, and unimpeded passage of all aid shipments, equipment and humanitarian personnel, especially to the northern Gaza Strip, and that it immediately provide essential humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, especially to northern Gaza, through the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip.


On April 4, 2024, a hearing was held on the petition. Following the hearing, the court issued an interim decision and ordered the state to submit a supplementary notice that would include a reference to steps being taken to increase the scope of aid entering the Gaza Strip.

 

On April 15, 2024, the state submitted the supplementary notice, in which Israel effectively admitted that it had not taken the necessary steps to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, including in the northern Gaza Strip. The state's announcement included declarations regarding future actions and planning without timetables or budgets for their implementation, which raised the suspicion that these were mere appearances.


On April 19, 2024, the petitioning organizations submitted a response to the state's announcement and requested a conditional order. We asked the court to "reject the respondents' attempt to drag their feet and order them to remedy the situation they created during the long months of fighting, by means of urgent actions that will ensure the provision of all necessary humanitarian assistance without delay." The petitioner’s summary emphasized that "the respondents' statement no longer leaves room for doubt that the State of Israel is not fulfilling its obligations under international and Israeli law. The catastrophic situation in the Gaza Strip requires immediate measures, and the respondents' announcement makes it clear that the state has time and does not see the gravity of the situation and denies its responsibility and duty to act immediately to correct it."

 

On April 21, 2024, the Court issued an interim decision instructing the State to submit an additional supplementary notice in which it must address the development of the measures being taken, their budgeting and the staff work being carried out regarding the calculation of the scope of humanitarian assistance required, as well as the petitioners' claims raised in their response.


On April 30, 2024, the state filed another supplementary notice with the court. In the announcement, the state detailed steps taken to remove obstacles and restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza and the distribution of aid throughout the Gaza Strip, including in northern Gaza, since the petition was submitted. Once again, the state did not respond to the court's question regarding how it calculates the scope of assistance required for Gaza residents. In the absence of information, it is unclear what the state's claim is based on the steps it has taken so far to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

 

On May 2, 2024, the petitioners submitted an additional response reiterating that the humanitarian disaster in Gaza requires an immediate, consistent and extensive response on behalf of the state under its obligations under international law. Although in the weeks since the petition was filed, there has been some increase in the amount of aid entering Gaza in general and northern Gaza in particular, this is not enough to meet the widespread need in Gaza and the shortage of food and essential equipment that poses an ongoing and growing threat to life.


A second hearing on the petition was held at the Supreme Court on Sunday, May 5, 2024.


On 6 May 2024, the court issued a second interim decision on the petition instructing the State to file an additional supplementary notice by 16 May 2024. As part of the announcement, the state was asked to address the results of the Bureau's work and the state of the measures it declared in its previous announcement.

 

On May 13 2024, the petitioners submitted an updated notice following the military activity in the Rafah area and Israel's takeover of the Rafah crossing. The statement stated, "With Israel's takeover of the Rafah crossing and the consolidation of its control over the area, there is no longer room for dispute that it is holding the Gaza Strip under full occupation and must fulfill its obligations as an occupying power, not only in the northern Gaza Strip." It was also explained that the area taken over by Israel is the area where the Kerem Shalom crossing and Rafah crossing are located on the border with Egypt, and where the logistics center is located, where international aid organizations operate to store and transport the aid throughout the Strip. Kerem Shalom and Rafah are the two crossings through which most of the humanitarian aid enters the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, as a result of the operation, Israel closed them without prior warning and without preparing for the entry of humanitarian aid from other crossings. This would strike a crushing blow at the ability to provide humanitarian assistance to the protected population in the Gaza Strip.


Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, stated in an assessment by international organizations on May 8th 2024: "The closure of the crossings means no fuel, no trucks, no water, no electricity, no generators, no movement of people and no distribution of aid. Our aid is stuck and our teams are stuck. Residents of Gaza are being killed and starving, and we can't help them." The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also said in an update that the stock of humanitarian aid, including food, is rapidly disappearing due to the closure of the Rafah crossing, the lack of secure access and the logistical capacity to reach Kerem Shalom. The severe fuel shortage affects the operation of hospitals and emergency vehicles, among other things. It should be emphasized that due to the closure of the Rafah crossing, there is no way to evacuate the few sick and wounded who were able to leave the Gaza Strip so far. This is despite the fact that aid organizations operating in the Gaza Strip also stressed, prior to the closure of the crossings, that the scope of medical evacuations from the Gaza Strip must be expanded.

 

As noted, the severe shortage of humanitarian aid that led to an unprecedented crisis was the reason for filing the petition, and as part of the state's announcements, it undertook steps to expand the scope of the aid. Nonetheless, Israel's actions in which it took control of the Rafah crossing severely impaired the scope of incoming aid and the ability of international organizations to distribute it to residents in need. In so doing, Israel knowingly impairs the ability of the protected population to receive humanitarian aid essential for its survival, and therefore Israel violates its obligations under the laws of war and the laws of occupation.


Israel claimed that Egypt was responsible for reducing the supply of aid due to its refusal to coordinate the entry of goods through Rafah Crossing after Israel took control of it. However, it should be emphasized that as a party to the fighting and as an occupying power, the responsibility for ensuring the provision of humanitarian aid rests with the State of Israel. This obligation is not canceled due to the fact that Hamas breaches its obligations, and this obligation does not depend on the conduct of third countries that are not parties to the fighting, such as Egypt. Egypt has no obligations under the laws of war, in the context of the war in Gaza. Israel must act immediately to ensure the supply of all necessary humanitarian aid and its transfer to the protected population without hindrance.


HCJ 2280/24 Gisha – Center for the Protection of the Right to Move v. Government of Israel

Attorney: Osnat Cohen Lifshitz and Sigi Ben Ari (Gisha)

 

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