The High Court of Justice ruled on Friday that the State's plan to restrict the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip can go ahead as planned. As for the similar plan to partially cut off Israel's supply of electricity to Gaza, the court said further deliberations were in order and demanded the State clarify some of its
positions on the matter. A ruling is expected within 12 days.
The court was asked to rule on the proposed measures after human rights grouped filed numerous petitions challenging the legality of imposing such restrictions.
Israel began reducing fuel supplies last month in response to the incessant Palestinian rocket fire emenating from Gaza and planned to begin scaling back electricity on Sunday.
"As for scaling back the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip – fuel acquired by the Palestinian Energy Authority from the Israeli company Dor Alon – the court was not convinced that it would not be possible to
do this while taking into account the humanitarian needs of the civilian population and operating generators to keep the water pumps and electricity working.
"The petitioners themselves confirmed that the fuel is distributed Gaza by private contractors to the highest bidder and without any regard to prioritization," the three-judge-panel wrote in their ruling.
"We do not accept the petitioners' argument that there is no way to ensure that the fuel provided will indeed be used for humanitarian needs. Under the current circumstances, if the distribution of fuel is
controlled and prioritized in a way that puts humanitarian needs first, it would appear that the amount provided even after the cutback will be enough to satisfy these needs."
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish ordered the State to provide an extensive overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza before the court ruled on the electricity cutbacks. The detailed review must include a technical breakdown of the effect such a measure would have on humanitarian services.
Rights group: 'Illegal collective punishment'
''We welcome the delay in electricity cuts and expect that at the end of the day the court will prevent the military from cutting electricity to Gaza, but we are concerned about the court's failure to intervene in the fuel cuts,'' said Sari Bashi of Gisha, one of the groups spearheading the court appeal.
''Any intentional reduction in vital services to Gaza residents who cannot receive fuel, electricity or other goods except from Israel constitutes illegal collective punishment,'' Bashi said, adding that the step would cause humanitarian damage.
Israeli government spokesman David Baker defended the policy and called it ''a non-lethal means for Israel to send a message to those responsible for the rocket fire from Gaza.''
''We will not accept this threat to Israeli towns and civilians, and we will take all steps necessary to
protect them,'' Baker said.
Mahmoud al-Shawa, head of a consortium of Gaza petroleum companies, said Friday that more than 100 of Gaza's 150 gas stations have already shut down because of the fuel cut. Beginning Wednesday, he said, his group had stopped accepting diesel fuel shipments to protest the cuts, allowing only vital cooking gas into Gaza.