The humanitarian crisis in Gaza: the primacy of politics?

Spring 2009

On 27 December 2008 the state of Israel launched a massive military attack against the Gaza Strip, controlled since 2005 by Hamas. The attack followed intense rocket launching from the Gaza Strip into the state of Israel that resulted in the death of one person in Sderot and the injury of several others[1].

To understand the situation and the context which shaped this humanitarian emergency, it is necessary to examine the events of the last several years in the area.

In August 2005, Israel unilaterally decided to withdraw from Gaza[2], after almost 40 years of presence in the area, both with militarily and civilian installations.  All settlements were completely dismantled, and the occupation in the area was declared to have ended.  From that moment, the juridical situation of the Gaza Strip became confused: a land free from the occupation of another country[3], but still not part of any state, with no control over its borders, no possibility to have independent exports or imports, or any independent communication with the outside world[4].  The initial plan was to leave the control of the Rafah border with Egypt to the European Union, and then eventually also open the airport in the Gaza Strip.[5]

In January 2006, when parliamentary elections were held across the occupied Palestinian territories, the new political branch of Hamas unexpectedly won, ending up with a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament) of 76 of the 132 seats, while the Fatah party, who had previously ruled, took just 43 seats[6]. The reaction of the international community was to enforce a regime of sanctions[7], in attempt to force Hamas into accepting the state of Israel and to demonstrate that Hamas could be a valid participant in peace dialogue[8].

After a short-lived ‘unity’ coalition government between Fatah and Hamas[9], the situation exploded into a brief civil war between the two factions, resulting in Hamas taking control over the entire Gaza Strip, and Fatah taking control over the entire West Bank[10]. Israel immediately closed all borders with the Strip and blocked all assets, goods and money due to the Palestinian government, in order to isolate the Hamas group, considered by Israel as a terrorist movement[11].

From the humanitarian point of view, from that moment the situation of the Gaza Strip rapidly deteriorated: access to basic goods, such as clean water, meat and wheat started getting difficult for most inhabitants of the area, added to the fact that access to fuel become quite impossible, with all the related problems of transportation, electricity and industrial production[12].  The deteriorated economical situation worsened conditions for the already-impoverished population, and exacerbated the conflicts inside the Palestinian leadership and between armed groups operating inside the Strip.

A ceasefire was signed between Hamas and Israel on June 19 2008, but the situation did not change: according to the agreement, the ceasefire should have lead[13] to a re-opening of the borders to allow free movement into and from the Gaza Strip, especially for goods and money.  This didn’t happen, and at the end of the ceasefire period, Hamas declared its intention not to renew the agreement with Israel.  The launching of rockets against the state of Israel increased and reached an intensity where some 190 rockets were launched in one month[14].  Israel’s reaction began on 27 December 2008, with one of the most heavy and devastating attacks that Israel has ever launched against the Palestinian territories.

The bombardment lasted 23 days, and saw one of the largest military forces in the Middle East attacking an area of 360 square kilometers containing nearly 1,500,000 people, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The effects were devastating[15]. The Palestinian Ministry of Health estimated that 1,440 Palestinians died, of whom 431 were children and 114 were women[16]. At the end of the 23 days, the number of injuries stood at 5,380, of which there were 1,870 children and 800 women[17]. The UN Development Program estimates that more than 14,000 homes, 68 government buildings and 31 non-governmental organization offices were either totally or partially damaged during the conflict[18].  In addition, of the 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, some 48 percent were damaged or destroyed: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care (PHC) centers were partially damaged; two PHC centers were destroyed; and 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed[19]. A joint UN-NGO damage assessment of the agriculture sector estimates the total direct losses at over $180 million, including direct losses to plant production, animal production and agricultural infrastructure, while the entire industrial sector has been cancelled completely[20].

As of 19 January 2009, 46,234 people had been displaced due to Israeli shelling, while 2,000 refugee families’ shelters were destroyed[21].  By 30 March 2009, 35,000 people were still without any access to water and 100,000 were only receiving water every 2-3 days. 80% of the total population is still, on 17 April 2009, dependent on humanitarian aid from agencies or NGOs[22].

The response of the international community has not been too bad compared to other similar crises, and due to the massive media coverage of the war, condemnation of the devastating humanitarian consequences of the attack was forthcoming from across the globe.

Some UN agencies, including OCHA, UNRWA, WPO, UNICEF, UNPD and several international and local organizations, governmental and otherwise, immediately started working in the Strip to organize, distribute and provide the necessary humanitarian aid following the catastrophic effects of the war[23].

The central thrust of this paper is to discuss the logistic and political problems related with the humanitarian response to this crisis.  This crisis has few comparisons in the history of humanitarian emergencies for two reasons: the complete control of the borders is in the hands of the opposing state, not formally an occupier[24] but also not only a neighbor.  As a consequence of this status, there remains a complete absence of a juridical frame inside which to allocate the responsibilities for access of humanitarian personnel and aid into the Gaza Strip. The second reason of the particularity of this crisis is the role of Hamas, democratically elected, but in control of the area after a violent elimination of the political opposition[25], which continues to control the Gaza Strip, but is not perceived by the international community as a reliable political entity, as opposed to attitudes toward Fatah, recognized and “elected” by the international community as the representative of the Palestinians, but not formally elected by their own population, due to the massive corruption that characterized their years of governance[26]. Furthermore, Fatah are no longer present in the Gaza Strip to be an interlocutor for the humanitarian aid organizations.

The first problem of this humanitarian crisis is not new: control over the borders of the Strip by Israeli state authorities was one of the main causes of the conflict, and an important source of inflammatory remarks and rising tensions during the 23 days of war.

At the launch of the Gaza Flash Appeal in Geneva on 2 February[27], for $613 million funding for emergency humanitarian and early recovery needs of the Gaza population, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, reiterated that

‘there must be a regular, predictable and sufficient flow of life-sustaining goods and uninterrupted and facilitated movement of humanitarian staff in order for this relief effort to succeed. Essential items such as construction materials, pipes, electrical wires and transformers, key equipment and spare parts now need to be allowed in… [F]or the Palestinians in Gaza to live, as opposed to simply being able to exist and survive, commercial goods also need to be allowed in and out.’ [28]

Israel has never accepted this condition, and this is increasingly affecting the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to the Strip, and to have any long-term, durable effect on the situation.

The office responsible for the coordination of international humanitarian aid is the OCHA Logistic Cluster[29], which is, in particular, in charge of communication and agreements with the Israeli office responsible for access and authorization for the Gaza Strip, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.  COGAT[30], headed by the military, is a unit within the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the Government of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority.

Since the beginning of the conflict, COGAT made two important elements clear: first, the fact that only certain items would be allowed to enter into the Strip. A preliminary list of priority items for transport into the Gaza Strip was compiled and shared with COGAT on 4 February[31]. The list is updated regularly to reflect humanitarian needs in Gaza, and the items may enter into the Strip following a complex system of division according to the crossing point:  Erez is the only crossing to be used for medical evacuation; Karni is the only one with a conveyor belt for handling bulk commodities, such as wheat; Kerem Shalom is the main crossing point for humanitarian personnel; Nahal Oz is only for fuel diesel, benzene and gas; Rafah (the border with Egypt) has a limited capacity and only trucks with medical supplies are allowed to cross directly[32].

The second important condition is the limit in the amount of aid allowed into Gaza: the Israeli authorities have informed the humanitarian community that only 150 trucks would be allowed into Gaza per day in the aftermath of the Israeli military operation[33].

These two conditions are crucial to understanding the difficulties and the problems faced by the humanitarian community in this crisis. All international agencies face unprecedented denial of access to Gaza, and the list of items appears not to be so clear at it should: First of all, the limited amount of humanitarian aid allowed is inconsistent with the needs of the population. Furthermore, the crossing points are not always all opened, and the number of trucks allowed to enter Gaza has never reached more than 120 trucks per day[34].

According to the OCHA Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator, dated 3- 5 February 2009[35],

“NGOs continue to face difficulty accessing the Gaza Strip to carry out humanitarian work. At a recent meeting of the Association of International Development Organizations’ sub-group on Gaza, 75 percent of those attending reported that their organizations were continuing to face difficulties in accessing the Gaza Strip. Humanitarian personnel are only allowed to enter Gaza through Erez crossing after receiving prior clearance by the Israeli authorities. Many NGOs have failed to receive a response from the Israeli authorities regarding their applications, while others were requested to provide additional information regarding their specific mandates, activities and funding sources. Others have been denied entry altogether. A key problem has been inconsistency in the application process; some staff members are informed that they have been approved, only to be denied entry when they attempt to cross Erez. In other cases, staff receive conflicting information from Israeli authorities regarding regulations that must be met before entry is allowed.”

In addition to this, the list of items is not respected and some particular items are still blocked at the border by the IDF, even though the items have been approved by COGAT in the list compiled in coordination with OCHA.  These goods include jam, tomato paste, flour, rice, wheat, meat, beans, biscuits, candle, matches and tuna. Yet the dynamics of the denial of access is also particular: OCHA logistic cluster’s reports[36], state that most of the products blocked are part of food packages, that must subsequently be repacked to be allowed to enter the Strip, and to eliminate the part of the package that has been refused clearance to enter the Strip[37]. The cost of this process, in terms of both time and money, is high, and not always affordable.

In addition, normal items such as children’s toys have not been cleared for access because they are deemed “not a humanitarian priority”[38], and anything related to rebuilding or construction, such as fuel, cement, sand, vehicles, or cash, is not allowed, leaving the reconstruction of buildings, hospitals, governmental offices, NGOs offices, UNRWA compounds, water pipes, sewage systems, streets and schools simply not feasible. The most recent OCHA report[39] on the situation speaks clearly of:

“random restrictions and unpredictable clearance procedures. The limited range of goods that Israel allows into Gaza changes regularly, creating major logistical problems for humanitarian agencies and making it difficult for them to implement programs.”

However, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is not so complex exclusively because of the problems with the state of Israel. The relationship between the international community and the ruling Hamas government inside the Strip is not at all easy and reached a very high level of tension at moments during the war. On 6 February, for example, following the confiscation of ten trucks of food aid by the Ministry of Social Affairs on 5 February, UNRWA suspended its movement of aid into Gaza. This incident followed the confiscation of food aid and blankets from an UNRWA distribution centre on 3 February. UNRWA announced that the suspension would remain in place until all aid was returned and credible assurances were provided that there would be no further interference to the import and delivery of aid. On 9 February, UNRWA lifted the suspension on the movement of its humanitarian supplies into Gaza, after the Hamas authorities returned all of the aid supplies confiscated on 3 and 5 February[40].

The problems related with the existence and the influence of Hamas inside the Strip is closely related with the problems that Israeli authorities impose on the access of humanitarian aid to the Strip. One example is the use of medicine bottles coming from Israel into humanitarian aid packages, later found by the IDF as being used as home made bombs by Hamas[41]. As a consequence, Israel stopped the import of medicines in bottles to the Gaza Strip, creating a lot of problems, especially at the beginning of the crisis, where medicines were one of the primary necessities due to the enormous number of injured people[42].

This situation is definitely not going to be solved unless the international community seriously deals with the problem of the political relationship with Hamas: since Hamas has been elected, in the first democratic election across the Palestinian Territories in 2005, the international community has taken a strong and contradictory position, opposing the movement in any way possible, despite the fact that Hamas reiterated that it was renouncing suicide attacks and offered Israel a 10-year truce “in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem[43],” and recognition of Palestinian rights, including the “right of return[44].” This attitude continued throughout the Gaza war and also during the Fatah–Hamas unity government, where the international community preferred to act in support of the “moderate” Fatah, adding fuel to the fire between the two rival Palestinian movements, leading to a civil war[45].

The path here is evidently consistent with what Mamdani[46] described as the position taken by the international community in each and every issue related with third world conflicts: choose a side and support it, without addressing the possibility to seek conciliation instead of winners and losers. The political situation of the PA now is incredibly weak, and an agreement has to be made before a new presidential election may take place. The international community, however, alongside the Arab countries, do not appear to be prioritizing any reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, nor with any of the other armed factions operating inside the Gaza Strip[47]. The ideology behind this situation is one of simplification, reducing the vision of the Arab world to the existence only of “moderates” or “extremists”.  This system is irreversible unless a single party takes the courage to address the real problem: Hamas initiated a political process several years ago, to transform itself into a political entity from a “terrorist” movement. This process is neither easy nor short, but is the same process that led to the transformation from the “terrorist” PLO movement to the political party of Fatah.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza will strictly depend on the resolution of this issue. It will be impossible to convert emergency humanitarian aid into long-term development if there is no connection between the agencies, the NGOs and the only authority present in the area, Hamas. Hamas must also be assisted in the continuing political transformation of their movement which began with the creation of the political faction.  In addition, Israel’s attitude reaches far beyond “security concerns” related to the import of goods to the Strip: the obstruction of goods and humanitarian personnel, and the manner in which relations are conducted, underline an intent to discourage agencies from working there, deliberately prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian population inside the Strip. In this situation, it is clear that both Hamas and the state of Israel are playing their political game on the backs of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip: Hamas because the suffering of the Palestinians, both during the war and today, is only increasing popular support for the movement, which has gained the role of being the only group seen to be fighting for the Palestinian population, thanks to the inaction of Arab countries during the conflict; Israel because it clings to the hope that the more Palestinians suffer, the more they will decide to shift their political allegiance from Hamas to Fatah, and to accept the conditions imposed by Israel for ‘peace’.

In this situation, the position of the humanitarian aid agencies and organizations is extremely uncertain: humanitarian aid workers find themselves operating in an environment where they are never seen as neutral, but always in relation to the final goal of whomever is approaching them. Even if they attempt to be neutral and impartial, aid agencies are often perceived to favor one side over the other.  In this context, Israel makes the task of the aid agencies extremely difficult and complicated, while Hamas attempts to use the aid, both politically and materially, for their own purposes.  The “incidents” that occurred during the war, involving the UNRWA schools which were full of innocent civilians[48], or the attack on the UNRWA trucks[49], underline a frightening path of involvement of the humanitarian aid workers into the means and ends of the war itself, a path we can observe developing in other conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

The basic concepts upon which the entire idea of humanitarian aid is built, those of impartiality and neutrality, are no longer going to be valid when applied to the new paradigm of political conflicts, in a trend that seems to be entirely regressive[50]. The development of conflicts in the 1990s has altered attitudes toward humanitarian action, passing from mere disregard for international humanitarian law by war criminals to the direct targeting of civilians and relief personnel, the use of foreign aid to fuel conflicts and war economies, and the protracted nature of many declared ‘emergencies’ which, in fact, last for decades[51]. The consequences of this are an increase in the security risks concerning the personal security of humanitarian aid workers working in all areas, and a decrease in the efficiency of the programs and in the ability to implement effective aid.  The main problem here is the same that we find in all recent humanitarian emergencies: the strong and urgent need to separate the political sphere from the humanitarian world, and to rebuild an identity for aid based simply on impartial and neutral action aimed at protecting and providing assistance to the victims of conflict, to escape the collective identity crisis among aid workers in war zones[52].

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a perfect example of the difficulties in addressing a humanitarian emergency where there is little will to solve the political problems that stand as the main causes of the crisis: the only way to rebuild humanitarian relief with the characteristics of impartiality and neutrality is be sure that the political bodies and state authorities address the political problems within their sphere of competence. I disagree with both “minimalist” and “maximalist” interpretations of the humanitarian agenda.  The first speaks about the neutral and impartial goal as achievable only by forgetting politics and disregarding it, while the latter states that humanitarian aid must be used to achieve political purposes[53]. Although humanitarian agencies go to great lengths to present themselves as nonpartisan, and their motives as pure, it is difficult not to be involved and influenced by politics: budget allocations and turf protection require vigilance. Humanitarians also negotiate with local authorities for transports, access and for visas, which all require compromises. They must decide whether or not to publicize human rights abuses, they choose when to look aside when bribes occur and food aid is diverted for military purposes.  They provide foreign exchange and forcibly contribute to the growth of war economies that redistribute assets from the weak to the strong[54].

We cannot act as if we do not realize that there are important political reasons behind the obstacles to humanitarian action in these situations.  Instead, it is clear that the only way we may address this problem is to act as a neutral and impartial body, primarily by speaking and listening with everyone, and not only to those deemed to be politically important. This attitude is certainly missed in the approach taken by UN agencies with the Middle East conflict, but cannot be missed by the humanitarian world if we don’t want to be overwhelmed by the reverse side of ignoring politics: the over imposition of politics on humanitarian relief.

The idea of consent here is again incredibly important and powerful: consent is not only the idea that a state agrees with a humanitarian operation or intervention, but the idea that behind this agreement there is the deep awareness of the primacy of humanitarian relief, alongside protection and ‘political’ human rights established for all the actors involved. Paradoxically, the only way to remove politics from humanitarian aid is to face the politics directly and approach all the different political actors in the same way, creating consent instead of searching for consent, and having in mind the only real goal of humanitarian assistance: protecting civilians and providing assistance to them.

Returning to the Gaza crisis, it is indubitable that Israel cannot keep enacting collective punishment on the residents of the Gaza Strip, with devastating repercussions to the civilian population. This can only be possible by creating a dialogue between Israel and Hamas that will force Israel to accept a third party guarantee for the access of goods into the Strip.

The latest Crisis Group report explains the situation[55]:

On reconstruction, if a middle ground cannot be found between Hamas’s insistence on being involved and much of the donor community’s desire to bypass it, and if Israel is not persuaded to open the crossings, lofty commitments will remain essentially theoretical. Here, too, is need for collective compromise. The Islamists control the situation on the ground for access, security, land use and construction permits. They thus should not fear a mechanism directed by others – whether the PA or some other entity – as long as they are consulted. Likewise, donors and the PA must accept that if reconstruction is contingent on barring all contact with Hamas and denying it all credit for the recovery, it is better not to think of it at all. And while Israel has legitimate security concerns about Hamas diverting imported material for military use, holding Gaza’s population hostage is not a legitimate response. It should be satisfied with end-use verification by an independent body with international membership.

The formula for a ceasefire can be resumed: Hamas must stop firing rockets and stop others from doing the same, something that it has showed able to do during the previous ceasefire with Israel, while Israel must lift the blockade. A prisoner exchange also is overdue, but Israel’s insistence that it be part of a ceasefire package, and include Corporal Gilad Shalit, has complicated both matters and made resolution of neither more likely. What is essential is a strong position by the U.S. in reassuring Israel, while simultaneously applying pressure on Israel to respect the humanitarian and political compromise that this situation requires.

The appearance on the scene of a third party is especially needed from the humanitarian point of view.  The blockade of Gaza is dictated by the need for Israel’s security; this cannot be ignored and must be addressed in order to eliminate the possibility that Israel may use this legitimate intent to achieve short-term political goals.  In addition, Hamas must feel that they are going to be treated as a responsible and reliable actor with other potential than the resumption of violence, a condition that can, as a bonus, make Hamas more accountable for its actions in front of the Palestinian population, as well as achieving greater legitimacy in the international community.

What it is clear is that the problems faced by the humanitarian community in Gaza are not new, and they need to be addressed by a thorough and rational reshaping of humanitarian aid identity around the pillars of neutrality and impartiality.  Furthermore, the identity of humanitarian aid must be shaped by approaching the problems considering both causes and actors involved, in order to be able to effectively manage and neutralize damaging political priorities instead of being exploited by the political entrenchment of individual parties.

This urgency is particularly critical in the Gaza crisis, where evidence suggests anger is rising, as residents realize their conditions are not about to improve. Israel might hope the population will turn their anger toward Hamas. More likely, Hamas will again turn their anger toward Israel, and toward humanitarian aid workers as representatives of the inability of the western world to help the Palestinians, and yet another massive humanitarian crisis is not so unlikely[56].

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Documents

Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, statement, July 5, 2006

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel strikes back against Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza 27-Dec-2008, January 21, 2009

New Crisis Group Report, Gaza’s Unfinished Business, Middle East Report N°85, 23 April 2009

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 6-9 February 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 27-29 January 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 3-5 February 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 20-21 February 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Situation Report, 8 February 2009

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 19 January 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 24-30 March 2009

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Consolidated Sitrep, 19-20-21 January 2009

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 27 -29 February 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 3 -5 February 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Situation Report, Standard Operating Procedures, updated 14 February 2009

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 24 Fe February – 2 March 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 9- 17 April 2009, 1700 hours

United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 6 – 9 February, 1700 hours

Essays

K. Mackintosh, Humanitarian Actors Beyond the Red Cross: the protection of independent humanitarian organizations and their staff in international humanitarian law, International Review of the Red Cross, 2007, Cambridge University Press

M Mari, The Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip: an end of the occupation?, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 2007, Cambridge Univ Press

M. Mamdani, The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency, The London Review of Books, March 2007

T. G. Weiss, Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 13, NO: 1, pages: 1-22, year: 1999

Y Shany, Faraway, So Close: The Legal Status of Gaza after Israel’s Disengagement, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 2007, Cambridge Univ Press

Articles

Abbas outlaws Hamas militia forces, CNN, June 17, 2007

Attack on UNRWA school firing of indiscriminate weapon, Bt’ Selem, 11 January, 2009

Fatah and Hamas sign deal on unity government, by A. Issacharoff, Haaretz Newspaper, June 16, 2007

Fatah leaders reeling from ‘the big punishment’, by K. A. Toameh, The Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2006

First Gaza damage estimate: $1.4 billion, Associated Press, January 15, 2009

Gaza sanctions: The legal argument, Associated Press, BBC, October 30, 2007

Hamas battles for control of Gaza, BBC News Online, June 13, 2007

Hamas threw ‘medicine grenades’ at IDF, by Y. Katz, Jerusalem Post, Feb 13, 2009

Hamas will end armed struggle if Israel quits territories, AFX News Limited, 12 February 2006

Peace with Israel for withdrawal to ’67 borders, ynetnews March 3, 2006

UNRWA: Army admitted bombed school did not harbor militants, by B. Ravid and A. Eldar, Hareetz Newspaper, January 11, 2009

Who are Hamas?, BBC News, 27 January 2007


[1] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel strikes back against Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza 27-Dec-2008, January 21, 2009.  The operation has the codename “Operation Cast Lead” and started at 11:30 on Saturday morning of 27th December 2008, ending on January 19, 2009.

[2] Included in Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan in the Disengagement Plan Implementation Law was a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which was adopted by the government on June 6, 2004 and enacted in August 2005, to evict all Israelis from the Gaza Strip (21 settlements) and from four settlements in the northern West Bank. The withdrawal was completed by September 12, 2005 while the eviction of the four settlements in the northern West Bank was completed by 22 September 2005.

[3] M Mari, The Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip: an end of the occupation?, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 2007, Cambridge Univ Press

[4] Y Shany, Faraway, So Close: The Legal Status of Gaza after Israel’s Disengagement, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 2007, Cambridge Univ Press. Israel retained the control of the airspace and territorial waters of Gaza, and governed the passage of persons and goods into Gaza from Israel (and the West Bank) and indirectly monitored passage in the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. In addition, Israel had not surrendered to the Strip’s population registration records to the PA, and had not yet agreed to the opening of Gaza’s seaport and airport.

[5] The European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EU BAM Rafah) was the EU’s second Civilian Crisis Management Mission in the Gaza Strip. The mission consisted of roughly 70 personnel including a special security team, but has not been able to operate since June 9, 2007.

[6] Municipal elections were held to elect members of local councils in the Palestinian Territories between December 2004 and December 2005. They were the first local elections held in Palestinian areas in almost thirty years. The elections were administered by the Higher Committee for Local Elections (HCLE), a body established under the authority of the Ministry for Local Government, an institution of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

[7] The economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority were imposed by Israel and the Quartet on the Middle East and consist of withholding of tax revenues collected in the Palestinian territories, cutoff of international aid to the Palestinian National Authority, restrictions of movement within the Palestinian territories and of goods moving in and out, and U.S. banking restrictions.

[8] See also Hamas will end armed struggle if Israel quits territories, AFX News Limited, 12 February 2006. http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/afx/2006/02/12/afx2519867.html and Le Monde Diplomatique, July 2007, http://mondediplo.com/2007/07/05palestine

[9] A. Issacharoff, Fatah and Hamas sign deal on unity government, Haaretz Newspaper, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/823645.html

[10] Hamas battles for control of Gaza, BBC News Online, June 13, 2007

[11] Israel has declared Gaza a “hostile entity”, and argues that it is not legally responsible for Gaza and not obliged to help a “hostile” territory beyond whatever is necessary to avoid a humanitarian crisis. See Gaza sanctions: The legal argument, Associated Press (2007-10-30), BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7069203.stm.

[12] The blockage of the Gaza Strip begin in June 2007 by Israel and Egypt. See also http://www.hrw.com and http://www.unhchr.com

[13] The agreement required Hamas to end rocket attacks on Israel and to enforce the lull throughout Gaza. In exchange, Hamas expected the blockade to end, commerce in Gaza to resume, and truck shipments to be restored to 2005 levels, which was between 500 and 600 trucks per day. Israel tied easing of the blockade to a reduction in rocket fire and gradually re-opened supply lines and permitted around 90 daily truck shipments to enter Gaza, up from around 70 per day. Hamas criticized Israel for its continued blockade while Israel accused Hamas of continued weapons smuggling via tunnels to Egypt and pointed to continued rocket attacks.

[14] Abbas outlaws Hamas militia forces, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/17/palestinian.cabinet/index.html

[15] First Gaza damage estimate: $1.4 billion, Associated Press, January 15, 2009.

[16] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 6-9 February 2009, 1700 hours

[17] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 27-29 January 2009, 1700 hours

[18] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 3-5 February 2009, 1700 hours

[19] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 3-5 February 2009, 1700 hours and United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 20-21 February 2009, 1700 hours

[20] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Situation Report, 8 February 2009

[21] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 19 January 2009, 1700 hours

[22] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 24-30 March 2009

[23] To have a look to some of the NGOs and Agencies involved look at United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Consolidated Sitrep, 19-20-21 January 2009

[24] See also: Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Human Rights Watch statement, July 5, 2006

[25] Hamas battles for control of Gaza, BBC News Online, June 13, 2007

[26] K. A. Toameh, Fatah leaders reeling from ‘the big punishment’, The Jerusalem Post, January 27, 2006

[27] To see the appeal and the organization of the entire humanitarian system for the Gaza Crisis look at http://domino.un.org/UNISPAl.NSF/b987b5db9bee37bf85256d0a00549525/5a1b12c81853b8e385257552006ad3ea!OpenDocument

[28] See the original appeal at http://www.ochaopt.org/gazacrisis/admin/output/files/ocha_opt_gaza_flash_appeal_2009_02_05_english.pdf

[29] http://www.logcluster.org/gaza09a

[30] http://www1.idf.il/matpash/site/templates/controller.asp?lang=en

[31] See meeting report on http://www.logcluster.org/gaza09a and United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster, Gaza Crisis Situation Report, Standard Operating Procedures, updated 14 February 2009

[32] See all Gaza Crisis Situation Reports by United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Logistic Cluster at http://www.logcluster.org/gaza09a/latest-updates

[33] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 27 -29 February 2009, 1700 hours

[34] ditto

[35] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 3 -5 February 2009, 1700 hours

[36] http://www.logcluster.org/gaza09a

[37] For a complete list of goods allowed or not into the Strip look at Clearance Status of Humanitarian Cargo, updated 17 April 2009,  http://www.logcluster.org/gaza09a/supply-chain/clearance-status-of-humanitarian-cargo/list_090408.pdf/download

[38] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 24 Fe February – 2 March 2009, 1700 hours

[39] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 9- 17 April 2009, 1700 hours

[40] United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator 6 – 9 February, 1700 hours

[41] Y. Katz, Hamas threw ‘medicine grenades’ at IDF, Jerusalem Post, Feb 13, 2009

[42] Interview with Andrew Cox, OCHA Chief of Staff, New York, 9 April, 2009

[43] Who are Hamas?BBC News, 27 January 2007

[44] Peace with Israel for withdrawal to ’67 borders, ynetnews March 3, 2006

[45] T. G. Weiss, Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 13, NO: 1, pages: 1-22, year: 1999

[46] M. Mamdani, The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency, The London Review of Books (March 2007)

[47] T. G. Weiss, Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 13, NO: 1, pages: 1-22, year: 1999

[48] B. Ravid and A. Eldar, UNRWA: Army admitted bombed school did not harbor militants, Hareetz Newspaper, January 11, 2009

[49] Attack on UNRWA school firing of indiscriminate weapon, Bt’ Selem, 11 January 2009 http://www.btselem.org/english/gaza_strip/20090111_bombing_unrwa_school.asp

[50] K. Mackintosh, Humanitarian Actors Beyond the Red Cross: the protection of independent humanitarian organizations and their staff in international humanitarian law, International Review of the Red Cross (2007), Cambridge University Press.

[51] T. G. Weiss, Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 13, NO: 1, pages: 1-22, year: 1999

[52] ditto

[53] T. G. Weiss, Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action, in Ethics & International Affairs, Vol. 13, NO: 1, pages: 1-22, year: 1999

[54] ditto

[55] Gaza’s Unfinished Business, New Crisis Group report, Middle East Report N°85, 23 April 2009 http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/getfile.cfm?id=3918&tid=6071&type=pdf&l=1

[56] ditto

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