Sources Media Release
 
   
 

News Release - Update:

Humanitarian Situation in the
Occupied Territories, Lebanon, and Israel

August 16, 2006


Since our summary of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, "Statement of Concern for the Public Health Situation in Gaza", signed by ninety-seven Canadian health professionals and sent as a press release to all media and to all members of Parliament, Israel has invaded Lebanon and continues to hold the Occupied Territories in siege.

We are sending this additional information to further document the humanitarian situation. As Canada plays an active role in supporting Israel, it is incumbent on the public and on members of government to have access to accurate reporting. At the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, "I didn't know" was a frequent defense.
This is unconscionable. At present, there are many sources of reliable information, of facts generally not reported in the media. We reiterate to the media and to members of government their obligation to fully report, investigate, and understand the circumstances in the Middle East when making decisions that involve such profound threats to life.

 

*Gaza*

* As of August 1'st , UNICEF reports that of 1.44 million people living in Gaza, 838,000 are children. "Having just returned from Gaza, it is clear that children are living in an environment of extraordinary violence, fear and anxiety. An August 3^rd statement by UN Humanitarian Agencies reports being "deeply alarmed by
the impact continuing violence is having on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the humanitarian situation facing 1.4 million people." The UN reports that since June 28, Palestinians have fired an average between 8-9 homemade rockets per day towards Israel, and that
Israel has fired between 200-250 artillery shells per day into Gaza an 220 aerial bombings. The UN Humanitarian Agencies state that "the shelling of sites with alleged military significance that result invariably in the killing of civilians, among them an increasing number of children, cannot be justified. OCHA report that UN facilities as well as large tracts of agricultural land have been damaged during continuing IDF ground incursions. The WFP has increased the number of people it feeds from 160,000 to 220,000 amongst the non-refugee population. WHO reports that the destruction of the only domestic power plants has triggered a chain reaction of lack of power, scarcity of fuel for generators and water shortage, causing serious threat to health and functioning of the entire health system. UNFPA (Population fund states that the shelling damaged health facilities ad restricted access to reproductive health services, especially women, to life saving services such as emergency obstetric care.

* Defence for Children International Palestine Section lists the names of 31 children killed in the Gaza Strip in July, stating that their deaths "expose anew the degradation of the principles of international humanitarian law. The death of these children implicates both the parties to the conflict as well as those States not directly involved, but who, as third parties are legally bound to enforce these principles."

* B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) as of August, 2006, reports that almost half the fatalities in the Gaza Strip were civilians not taking part in the hostilities. They found that in four cases they investigated, there were no armed Palestinians or weapons stored in the four locations. "Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, it is forbidden to carry out an attack, even against a military object, with the knowledge that it is liable to cause injury to civilians that is excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated from the attack."

* The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) states that "the complacency of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the 4^th Geneva Convention and their failure to take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has been a supporting and encouraging element for Israel to continue perpetrating additional war crimes against Palestinian civilians." The PCHR documents attacks on civilians
and describes how the IOF gives Palestinians less than one hour to vacate their houses and appeal against their destruction. They state that Israel has not provided any evidence that could justify the destruction of houses.

* A petition filed by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (July 19, 2006) calls upon Israel to: 1) cease the policy of closure and curfew that is dismantling the different Palestinian civil services - particularly the health service; 2) forward tax revenue due to the PA promptly and without delay; 3) facilitate work of international bodies and encourage them to continue to support and finance Palestinian civil infrastructures and systems; 4) provide free medical services for the residents of the occupied territories in fields that are not available in the
Palestinian system.If the system collapses, Israel must meet all the civil needs. "Ending the funding to the health system will lead to the death of thousands of people in the short term and to extensive morbidity in the long term."

* B'Tselem July 21, 2006: Israeli soldiers use civilians as human shields in Beit Hanun. "During an incursion by Israeli forces into Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, l7 July 2006, soldiers seized control of two buildings in the town and used residents as human shield" including two minors. "The soldiers also demanded that one of the occupants walk in front of them during a search of all the apartments in one of the buildings, after which they released her." International humanitarian law forbids using civilians as human shields.**


*Lebanon*:

* Before the Israeli invasion, the national unity government in Beirut formed a committee to negotiate the disarmament of the bases outside the refugee camps and to control the arms inside them. The aim was to create a "united delegation and ensuring that this issue isn't dealt with just from a security point of view, but that the outcome will advance our political rights and improve the humanitarian situation in the camps." Ein al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon has a refugee population of 45,000 and is even more impoverished than the occupied territories; since Oslo, UNRWA and other UN agencies have drastically reduced allocations to Palestinians within Lebanon. There are 404,000 Palestinians and half live in a dozen camps around the country. According to UNRWA, 60% live in poverty and as many as 70% are unemployed. Until recently, there were 72 jobs they were unable to practice outside the camps; they were not allowed to bring construction material into the camps and cannot leave or re-enter Lebanese territory without a visa which lasts
only 6 months. Qualified Palestinians still cannot practice medicine, law, or architecture and Palestinians cannot own property. In June 2005, there was partial easing for Palestinians born in Lebanon. Furthermore, Israeli planes after 2000 fly regularly over Lebanon with total impunity (/Le Monde Diplomatique/, July 2006, Marina da Silva).

* As reported in the /Christian Science Monitor/ August 2, the UN estimates that there are 700,000 displaced people in Lebanon; in its scale, this resembles the mass exodus from Rwanda in 2004, Kosovo in 2000 and for years from Sudan and Central Africa. 70% to 80% of the people south of the Litani River have gone. "The scale of human misery inflicted by just three weeks of war is creating new stress on a society that is being forced to resurrect survival instincts honed by fifteen years of civil war in the 1970s and 1980s "The fighting, during which Israel has shelled fleeing civilian vehicles, relief convoys, and ambulances, has complicated aid efforts." Israel does not allow UN vehicles a safe corridor. Access by sea and by air is blocked, and on August 4 Israel blocked access through Syria. Lebanon faces a severe fuel shortage, which aid workers
say has already led to the closure of some hospitals in the south that have been on generator power for weeks.

* Hospital closures: the American University Hospital in Beirut and the Hammoud hospital in Sidon will accept only emergency cases because of lack of fuel to run generators and because of critically low medical supplies. In central Beirut, the concern is that vital supplies of food, clean water, and fuel will soon begin to run dangerously low. George Tomey, acting president of the University of Beirut, sid "We have reached a very critical stage. "It's very sad. We have never had to close the hospital, not even during the worst days of the civil war."(August 5, /Toronto// Star/). The American University Hospital issued a press release stating that there was only enough oil to fuel generators for a maximum of 20 days or as little as 7 days. Dr. Nadim Cortas, Dean of the medical program, stated "We see no reason why there should be a blockade on fuel delivery. It could be conditional, only going to hospitals, and it can be monitored . . . The blockade has no benefit to Israel except to inflict more suffering on the civilian population."

* Human Rights Watch report August 3, 2006: A 50 page report details an investigation of nearly two dozen cases of IDF attacks in which a total of 153 civilians, including 63 children, were killed in homes or motor vehicles. "In none of the cases did HRW researchers find evidence that there was a significant enough military objective to justify the attack, given the risks to civilian lives, while in many cases, there was no identifiable military target. In still other cases cited in the report, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians. 'The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes." The report called for the US to immediately suspend transfers to Israel of arms, ammunition, and other material credibly allege to have been used in such attacks until they cease. HRW also condemned Hezbollah of indiscriminate attacks which have killed 19 civilians. Amnesty International accused Israel of trying to convert southern Lebanon into a "free-fire zone" which is "incompatible with international humanitarian law."


*Non-conventional weapons*:

There have been increasing reports of the possible use of non-conventional weapons by Israel in Gaza and
Lebanon.

Dr. Jom 'a Al Saka, spokesperson for Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza and Dr. Muawiya Hassanein said in a report published by Ma'an news agency, that "The Israeli forces are using internationally prohibited missiles that contain chemical materials and burning metals and in addition, have shrapnel in the shape of nails." He pointed out that the injuries received in the hospitals as a result of these missiles are very dangerous because the human tissues and muscles are torn and in addition, the injured suffer from severe bleeding, loss of limbs and broken bones. Several doctors working in different hospitals confirmed the use of non-conventional weapons: Dr. Saeed Jodah says "When the shrapnel hits the body, it burns and destroys internal organs, like the liver, kidneys, the spleen and other organs, and makes saving the wounded impossible. As a surgeon, I have seen thousands of wounds during the Intifada, but nothing was like this weapon." Dr. Bashir Sham of Southern Medical Center near Saida, Lebanon, member of the French Association of Cardiovascular Surgeons,
reported his observations to the Doctors Order in Lebanon commissioner of the EU for Foreign Affaires Javier Solana and to UN Secretary Kofi Annan. "One might think they were burnt, but their colour is dark, they're inflated and they have a terrible smell and hair is not burnt nor do bodies bleed." He also stated that there were an unusual number of dead victims compared to the number of injured. http://www.vtjp.org/report/Israels_New_Weapons.htm
http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/200
6/07/24/p9569#more9569 article by Benjamin Merhav


* Psychological effects:*

* In Israel, militarism and Israeli brutalization of Palestinians is connected with a violent society. Israeli police recorded a 36% increase in violence among minors in 2004, a 55% increase of violence against children in the past ten years. A rehabilitation center (Kfar Izun) that opened in 2001 found that most problems resulted from experiences that addicts had while in the military. A photograph circulated widely on the Internet shows young Israeli girls writing "greetings" on artillery shells fire into Lebanon, such as "may you die", "I've waited so long for this." http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=15257

* Eloquently and prophetically, DCI/PS states that "At a time when international political actors are calling for a return to the logic of 'durable solutions' to stop the current escalation in violence, DCI/PS asserts that nations at war remember no injuries as acutely as they remember the death of their children."

* Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan lost her only daughter to a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. With Israeli and Palestinian mothers, she has been a voice for peace. In a speech to the European Parliament June, 2005, she describes the daily psychological torment for children and women in the occupied territories: "It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israel army, has expanded around the globe. In fact, state violence and army violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence which is hardly ever addressed and which is half heartedly condoned by most people in Europe and the USA. . . . I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every day, every hour, I don't know the kind of violence that turns a woman's life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights an needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are demolished, who are deprived of their livelihood an of any normal family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal. But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence against children is actually violence against mothers."

* Six months before the capture of Cpl. Shalit, PHR-I filed a petition and a request to the Israeli Supreme Court for a temporary injunction to stop the sonic booms, deeming it a collective punishment of the civilian population that particularly traumatized children. The petition was rejected and the sonic booms persist. Depending on the child's age, the sonic booms can be psychologically traumatic: they occur without warning - when such an assault occurs without warning or preparation, it produces panic and terror, not the signal of anxiety which allows a child to protect himself and have some sense of control; for a young child, it is terrifying to feel that his parents cannot protect him; the physical impact of sonic boom is confusing and overpowering and it is difficult to locate the source of the sensory assault - this is particularly overwhelming for young children who do not yet have a clear sense of body boundaries and of localized sensation.

Federico Allodi M.D.
Judith Deutsch M.S.W.
Miriam Garfinkle M.D.
Sameh Hassan M.D.
Nancy Olivieri M.D.


See also:
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza (July 31, 2006)
The Middle East Conflict - Resources for peace, justice, and human rights


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