Gaza is in the news again and everyone seems to have an opinion though very few seem to know the facts. Regardless of your viewpoint, analysis and conclusions, here are some important things to know.
- While Israel removed its military installations and settlements from inside Gaza in 2005, it retained control of the Palestinian population registry, of Gaza’s sea and airspace, of a “buffer zone” of land inside Gaza, of Gaza’s only commercial crossing (thus controlling all entrance and exit of goods) and the pedestrian crossing at Erez, connecting Gaza to the West Bank and Israel. The extent and nature of this control – which impacts almost every aspect of life in Gaza – translates into responsibilities.
- The demand for electricity supply in Gaza ranges between 350-450 megawatts (depending on the season). Gaza purchases 120 MW from Israel and Egypt sells it another 28 MW. Gaza’s sole power plant is unable to produce the rest of the electricity needed.
- Residents of Gaza experience rolling blackouts totaling around 12 hours per day on average.
- The capacity of Gaza’s power plant has not been fully restored since it was bombed by Israel in 2006, but even if it were to operate at its full capacity, the power produced would still only get Gaza to two-thirds of demand for electricity supply.
- Calls by Israeli officials to cut Gaza’s electricity supply counter the legal position of the state as well as the opinion of Israel’s High Court, not to mention international law. In 2007, the state claimed that, despite the disengagement, it had an obligation to avoid any action that would cause a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The Supreme Court also held that Israel must refrain from cutting off supply as doing so would contravene its humanitarian obligations.
Movement of goods
- Israel facilitates entrance of goods to Gaza, not as a gesture of good will or at its own expense. On the contrary, Palestinians traders and international organizations purchase the goods and Israel allows them to be transferred to Gaza. In 2012, Gaza residents purchased Israeli products at an estimated value of 1.3 billion shekels (around 380 million dollars).
- Since Sunday, July 6, Israel began limiting the kinds of goods that could be transferred to Gaza, allowing in only medicine, food, and fuel. Other items, like clothing, shoes, wood, and paper are being prevented from entering. Export of goods hasn’t taken place since June 9. We don’t know how long this state of affairs will last.
- Israel limits the entrance of items it defines as “dual use”, including construction materials. Sale and transfer of construction materials to the private sector has been completely banned for the past nine months, a move which contributed to a sharp rise in unemployment.
- True to the first quarter of 2014, the unemployment rate was 40.8%. The unemployment rate among young people (aged 15-29) was 58.2%.
- According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 24,200 individuals worked in the construction sector in mid-2013, but by the summer of 2014, only 6,800 people were employed in the sector.
- More than 70% of the population in Gaza receives humanitarian aid.
- Residents of Gaza didn’t vote for Hamas. Hamas representatives won a majority of parliamentary seats in Palestinian Authority-wide elections which took place in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in 2006. In 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza by force and elections have not been held in the Palestinian territory since.
- More than 53% of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18. In other words, a vast majority of people in Gaza were not even eligible to vote when elections took place in 2006.