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Israel high court upholds Gaza supply cuts

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] ruled Wednesday that the Israeli government can continue to cut supplies of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], rejecting legal challenges [press release; JURIST report] by human rights groups that the blockade deprived Gaza residents of basic humanitarian needs in violation of international law. Israeli officials say that withholding fuel and energy supplies is the only option open to the Israeli government aside from a full-scale military operation against Hamas [BBC backgrounder], which has refused to halt indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli positions from Gaza. In its ruling [unofficial English translation, PDF], the court held that Israel is required to act against terror organizations in accordance with the norms of international law but that the reduced supplies currently allowed into Gaza "fulfill the vital humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip at this time." In November 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court blocked government plans to cut electricity [JURIST report] in the Gaza Strip, while allowing fuel supply cuts. Israel currently supplies all of Gaza's fuel and more than two-thirds of its electricity.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution [draft text, PDF; JURIST report] criticizing Israel for recent military attacks and a week-long blockade against the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip that the Council said amounted to human rights violations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] has also said that Israel's policy of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force and targeted killings, coupled with the Palestinian militant practice of indiscriminate firings of bombs and rockets, has led to the current crisis [transcript; JURIST report] in the Gaza Strip. The latest Israeli blockade began mid-January, when Israel closed crossings into Gaza and cut off electricity, fuel and emergency aid to the area after more than 45 rockets hit Israeli towns. AP has more.

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