The humanitarian conditions which prevail in the Gaza Strip are deteriorating due to attacks perpetrated by Israeli forces since Monday, 10 May 2021, in which civilians and public and private properties are being targeted. As a result, electricity networks supplying private homes, businesses and health and other public institutions have been damaged. Israel continues to implement a policy of collective punishment on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip which exceeds two million.
Information provided to Al Mezan indicates that the available power supply in the Gaza Strip is currently only 96 mw, 400 mw having being identified as the optimal supply of electricity required to meet the needs of the Gaza Strip. The current deficit has accordingly risen to 76%. The Gaza Strip is reliant upon Israel for most of its supply of electricity, although there is one internal plant. The current aggression has led to residents receiving only three to four hours of electricity per day, with periods of as long as 20 hours with no supply at all.
The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) has been unable to supply some neighborhoods and areas with electricity for several days, due to the difficulty in accessing and repairing the networks, causing a permanent power cut to extensive residential areas. Further, six main power lines supplying the Strip from Israel have been compromised due to the ongoing Israeli attacks; these main lines are: Baghdad, al-Qubba and al-Sha’af supplying Gaza City, the F7 line supplying the Middle Gaza District, the F11 line supplying Khan Younis District, and the F9 line supplying Rafah; their total capacity is approximately 75 mw. Further, the J10 line, which supplies power internally from the Gaza power plant to Gaza and the North Gaza District, with a capacity of 10 mw is also compromised. Until now Palestinian and Israeli technical crews have been prohibited from repairing and reinstating the lines coming from Israel due to the Israeli forces’ designation of the area around the separation fence area as a closed military zone.
According to the available information from the GEDCO, the Israeli ongoing aggression has caused substantial damage to the electricity networks: 12 transformers, 81 high pressure network components and 281 low pressure network components have been put out of action and the cost of this damage is estimated to be $7.33 million. As a result of this damage, 902,600 citizens in extensive areas are without any power.
On a related note, the Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only crossing through which goods and commodities can enter the Gaza Strip from Israel, including fuel for the international power station. Available information indicates that fuel supplies are about to run out; the internal plant is likely to stop operating in the coming hours unless fuel supplies to the Strip are re-instated. Furthermore, commercially-sourced electrical generators that are used by private homes, businesses and services, such as hospitals, have been affected by the closure of the crossing and the lack of fuel needed to operate them, which has led to a decrease in their working hours and consequently a decrease in the supplemental electricity that they can provide. Not all citizens are able to afford to buy such generators (and the fuel needed to run them) in any event due to the high rates of poverty and unemployment in the Strip. The closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and the consequent lack of fuel have a severe effect on the functioning of generators and this affects all aspects of life, including hospitals and clinics, which were already under great pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic prior to the commencement of the current attacks. Water treatment facilities have also been affected.
The power shortages deprive residents of the Gaza Strip of adequate water supplies. Further, due to the fact that elevators in multi-story buildings cannot work during power cuts some vulnerable people, including the disabled and elderly, are unable to make essential trips to hospitals or leave for other emergency reasons, including fleeing buildings under attack. The ongoing crisis of power cuts and fuel shortages threatens to jeopardize waste water treatment services, as well as the transportation of food and supplies. Food in shops is in danger of being spoiled if refrigerators cannot function.
Al Mezan condemns the Israeli forces’ targeting of civilians, infrastructure and facilities and the ban on the entry of fuel needed to operate the power plant, in clear violation of the rules of IHL prohibiting the occupying power from implementing collective punishment of civilians. Electricity is indispensable to people’s life and contributes in the protection of economic and social rights, which are rapidly deteriorating due to the tight blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan calls on the international community and international institutions to immediately intervene and oblige the Israeli forces to curtail their aggression on the Gaza Strip, cease the targeting of civilians and their private and public properties, end the collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, including the policy of closure and blockade, and open the Kerem Shalom crossing and resume the supply of fuel to the power plant in the Gaza Strip. It is also essential that Israel is called upon to allow technical crews to restore and repair electricity networks, not to target infrastructure facilities, and to ensure the safety of workers in services concerning electricity and water.