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Israel's Supreme Court Upholds Gaza Fuel, Electricity Cuts

Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the government's policy of cutting fuel and electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

The three-judge panel of the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against human rights groups who had challenged the policy of reducing fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza - as a way of retaliating against Palestinian rocket fire.

The Court said that Gaza is controlled by what it called a "murderous terrorist group, that violates every precept of international law by its violent actions," saying the Palestinian rocket attacks are aimed at harming innocent civilians. At the same time the Court said while Israel has to act against terrorist groups, it must also "fulfill vital humanitarian needs in Gaza."

The ruling was immediately condemned by human rights groups like Gisha which brought the original petition against the cuts.

"This is a dangerous legal precedent that allows Israel to continue to violate the rights of Gaza residents and to deprive them of basic humanitarian needs in violation of international law," said Gisha's Executive Director Sari Bashi. "This is collective punishment in its most blatant form."

Israel supplies all of Gaza's fuel and more than two-thirds of its electricity. While Israel recently reduced fuel supplies to Gaza, causing an international outcry, it has so far not cut electricity to Gaza - something that could now change with Wednesday's ruling.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ariyeh Mekel says, however, any talk of further cuts is premature.

"This is a judicial ruling that basically says the government is allowed to curtail supplies to Gaza if it wants to," said Mekel. "It does not say it has to. In fact today we have sent in many trucks and fuel, and we have said all along that we would not allow a humanitarian crisis in Gaza."

A spokesman for Gaza's ruling Hamas group condemned Wednesday's ruling, calling it the ugly face of the occupation. Ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza last year, Gaza has been under an international blockade, with Israel closing off crossing points between its territory and Gaza, and Egypt closing the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Last week Hamas militants blew open the border wall at Rafah in response to Israel cutting food and fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip.