Due to the severe fuel shortage and damage to infrastructure the electricity in the Gaza Strip has been severely affected, resulting in planned and irregular power cuts. For the past few years following the illegal closure imposed on the Strip, there was an 8x8 schedule for electricity set by the Hamas government: for every eight hours of electricity, there would be an eight-hour power cut. Since the latest offensive against Gaza, there has been a 6x12 schedule: for every six hours of electricity, there would be a 12-hour power cut. During the 2014 offensive, the town of Khuza'a, Khan Younes, was completely destroyed. Residents nonetheless returned to the area, mostly living in donor-provided caravans. To ease their situation, the area received electricity 24 hours a day. However, on 23 March 2015, the Hamas government decided that it would become part of the 6x12 schedule; the residents, who were already suffering from difficult circumstances, protested the decision.
Muhammad Fawzi Qadih - Khuza'a - Khan Younes
On Monday 23 March at approximately 6:00 pm, mosques in Khuza'a called out to people to gather at the entrance of the town to peacefully demonstrate the continuous cuts in electricity in the Gaza Strip. Muhammad, 26, headed there along with some of his relatives. There were about 500 people. During the protest, some participants burnt tires on the street. At approximately 8:00 pm, four police jeeps arrived to the scene. The police officers, who were armed, stepped out of their cars and started forcibly dispersing the demonstrators. Muhammad recalls seeing the police officers beating some of the demonstrators with their batons.
Muhammad and a few others tried to escape the area but the police officers came after them and beat them. Muhammad was beaten with a baton on his left wrist, but then ran for approximately 100 metres. From there, Muhammad watched some of the protestors throw stones at the police officers. In response, the police officers fired a few shots in the air, chased the demonstrators, beat them, and arrested some. Within half an hour, the police suppressed the demonstration. Once home, Muhammad learnt that the police arrested six people, including a 13-year-old child. They were all released the following morning. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10535/2015)
'Azza Yousef Al-Najjar - Khuza'a - Khan Younes
'Azza, 23, lives with her husband and child in a caravan near the entrance of Khuza'a. Her house was demolished during the 2014 Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.
On Monday 23 March, at approximately 8:00 pm, 'Azza was standing near her caravan with her husband Muhammad Al-Najjar, 29, who is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair. He was injured during the Israeli offensive against Gaza in 2008. While the two of them were standing near their home, they saw a group of people gather near the entrance of Khuza'a who were protesting the electricity cut on the town. Ten minutes later, police arrived to the scene and started dispersing the protestors and assaulting them with batons. Some of the protestors started throwing stones at the policemen, while others escaped into their caravans as the policemen chased them.
Four armed policemen then approached 'Azza and started beating her all over her body. They ordered her to go into her caravan. 'Azza was screaming in pain. Her husband, Muhammad, tried to prevent them from beating her and told them that his wife was pregnant. They continued to hit her and began beating Muhammad as well. From the beatings, 'Azza fell to ground and lost consciousness. 'Azza was transferred to hospital and was discharged on Tuesday 24 March. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10536/2015)
Jihan Wasfi Al-Najjar - Khuza'a - Khan Younes
Jihan, 23, lives with her family in a caravan approximately 100 metres away from the entrance of Khuza'a. Her house was destroyed by Israeli forces during the summer of 2014.
On Monday 23 March at approximately 8:00 pm, Jihan was making tea in the kitchen of her sister's caravan. She heard loud noises outside and learnt from her sister that the police was violently dispersing a protest. Shortly afterwards, three policemen entered the caravan, and one of the police officers beat Jihan on her back with his baton. Another officer ordered him to stop beating Jihan and then the three of them left the caravan. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10537/2015)
Al-Haq condemns the actions by the police in Gaza, including the arbitrary arrest and excessive use of force against the protestors and other civilians. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantee that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion, expression and assembly. The UDHR and ICCPR further uphold the rights to liberty and security of person. In addition, the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are enshrined in the Palestinian Basic Law in Article 26 and 19 respectively. As such, Al-Haq calls upon the acting police officers to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly of Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, individuals must not be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, nor should they be treated in a manner that infringes upon the right to life. Police and other governmental authorities must treat individuals in a manner that respects the inherent dignity of the person.
In general, the shortage in electricity in the Gaza Strip impacts all areas of Palestinian life, including medical treatment. The water supply and sewage networks are also gravely hampered, creating an unhealthy environment for Gaza residents. The shortage in electricity and continuous power cuts are a direct result of Israel's more than seven-year illegal closure of the Gaza Strip and the Israeli offensives which have destroyed key infrastructure there. Accordingly, Al-Haq calls on Israel to end its closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form a collective punishment of the entire Palestinian civilian population, in violation of international humanitarian law.