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Press Release: Israel tightens punitive closure measures on Gaza and bans fuel entry

As electricity deficit surpasses 80 percent, Al Mezan warns of a looming spike in the humanitarian catastrophe

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18 August 2020 |Reference 53/2020

Some two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are now facing the catastrophic implications of Israel’s latest series of punitive measures, namely closing the Gaza Strip’s Karim Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) commercial crossing, decreasing the fishing zone from 15 to eight nautical miles, and fully suspending fuel shipments to the Strip starting from Thursday, 13 August 2020.


Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Tuesday morning after the plant’s fuel reservoir ran out. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDC) estimates the incurred loss to be around 60-65 megawatts, which means the population in Gaza will receive approximately three to four hours of electricity daily, followed by at least a 16-hour power cut, due to the deficit in fuel supply. In a repost published in 2019, the GEDC estimated the Gaza Strip’s electricity demand at about 622 megawatts during peak times. Currently, the supply stands at less than 120 megawatts, leaving Gaza with a deficit of 80 percent of its demand.       


The severe shortage in the power supply is bound to compound the suffering of Gaza’s residents and undermine the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, and exacerbate the struggle of a severely depleted health sector. In this regard, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza warned against the serious impact of the power crisis on the population’s wellbeing, especially for inpatients at healthcare facilities, including premature newborns and patients receiving hemodialysis treatment or staying in the intensive care unit. Surgeries, including cesarean delivery, might be halted as well.  


The crisis further hinders the provision of basic services across crucial sectors, such as water and sanitation. Sewage may be pumped into the sea untreated as treatment facilities will lack sufficient electricity to operate at capacity. Residential buildings will also experience chronic water shortage, as the operation of water pumps feeding the municipal water supply will experience additional down time, raising serious concerns for the health of residents.  


In addition to the decline in the health sector and municipal services, if the closure of the commercial crossing continues, business owners will incur tremendous losses, as production costs rise and materials become scarce. The price of essential goods is expected to increase drastically, too. 


Al Mezan stresses that this crisis, and its impact on the population’s wellbeing, is primarily the responsibility of Israel, the occupying power, that has been unlawfully imposing a blockade and closure on the Gaza Strip for over 13 years. The new collective punishment policies are set to intensify the dire living conditions in Gaza and inflame a tragic situation, especially in light of the worrying rates of poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity. 


Al Mezan is deeply concerned over Israel’s unlawful collective punishment measures targeting the population in the Gaza Strip, which continue amid the silence of the international community, and warns of dire consequences, including a potential new round of hostilities. Therefore, Al Mezan reiterates its calls on the international community to ensure the respect of international law, and to exert pressure on Israel, the occupying power, to immediately cease the new collective punishment policies and fully and unconditionally lift the blockade and closure.


Al Mezan also calls on the concerned agencies, NGOs and international bodies to mobilize support for residents of the Gaza Strip, whose lives are threatened by the current crisis, and to improve the resilience and overall development of the living conditions in Gaza in order to deter a heightened catastrophe.