Last updated: 17 October, 2012

Israel set calorie “red line” for Gaza Strip

The Israeli authorities set a “red line” of minimum food needs for the Gaza Strip so that a punitive military blockade would not cause malnutrition, an Israeli NGO said in a report published on Wednesday.

Gisha, which campaigns for Palestinian freedom of movement and trade, said that defence ministry documents dating from 2008 and obtained under a freedom of information suit showed that an average of 2,279 calories per person per day was deemed sufficient.

Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after militants there snatched one of its soldiers.

It was tightened in September 2007 several months after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power, ousting forces loyal to Western-backed president Mahmud Abbas.

“The official goal of the policy was to wage ‘economic warfare’ which would paralyse Gaza’s economy and, according to the defence ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government,” said the Gisha report.

Guy Inbar, spokesman for the COGAT defence ministry department dealing with the Palestinian territories, said the document, entitled “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip — Red Lines,” had never been used to set levels of food allowed into Gaza.

“The whole red lines document was a draft of which no use was ever made,” he told AFP. “It was never implemented, we never used it… we never counted calories.

“It was a draft meant to help in some sort of process of calculation to identify and prevent humanitarian distress in the Gaza Strip,” he said, explaining that nowadays the amount of food entering Gaza from Israel is determined by Gazans themselves.

“Today everything goes into Gaza, with the exception of material that can be used for terror.”

Restrictions were eased in 2010 following an international outcry over Israel’s killing of nine Turkish nationals during a botched navy raid on a ship trying to breach the blockade.

Gisha said the defence ministry had only reluctantly made the Red Lines file available after a three-and-a-half year legal battle.

It said that despite the document’s recommendation that a minimum of 106 food trucks per working day were needed in Gaza, in practice only an average of 67 were allowed through.