Gisha: Israel is repeatedly striking at fragile systems in Gaza – and hospitals, schools, and water pumps are crippled by the blows.

Gaza Power Plant on Verge of Paralysis due to Fuel Cuts

Sun., January 20, 2008 – Due to severe restrictions on the supply of industrial diesel, Gaza’s power plant stopped operating one of its turbines this morning and is currently producing only 30 megawatts of electricity (down from the 80 MW it could produce). According to engineers at the plant, if additional supplies of industrial diesel are not received immediately, the plant will completely shut down. The fuel cuts have caused massive power outages in Gaza (up to 12 hours per day), paralyzing vital systems such as hospitals, water and sewage pumps, and schools. Even bakeries in Gaza are threatening to shut down, because they can’t bake bread without electricity.

Gisha: "We condemn the illegal rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel. But punishing Gaza’s 1.5 million civilians does not stop the rocket fire; it only creates an impossible ‘balance’ of human suffering on both sides of the border".

Gisha’s Executive Director Sari Bashi wrote to the State Attorney’s Office today demanding that the restrictions on industrial fuel be lifted. Gisha, which is one of the human rights groups petitioning against the cuts to Gaza’s fuel and electricity supply, noted that the Supreme Court on November 29 ordered the military not to cut the electricity it supplies to Gaza, pending clarifications regarding the humanitarian impact. Despite the court decision, the military has found a "back door" to cutting electricity supplies: cutting supplies of the industrial diesel that Gaza’s power plant needs to produce electricity.

Gaza residents are currently suffering from a 35% deficit in electricity supply which will increase to 48% if the power plant shuts down. In the winter peak season, Gaza residents need up to 240 MW electricity, but Israeli actions have now limited them to just 155 MW. Gaza residents receive 17 MW from Egypt and are supposed to receive 120 MW from Israel, but since Monday Jan. 14, a technical problem on one of the lines coming from Israel has reduced supply to just 108 MW. The power plant is currently producing just 30 MW, down from 65 MW prior to January 5, 2008 and down from the 80 MW it could produce with adequate fuel.

Despite a Jan. 10 commitment by Israel’s military to increase the amount of industrial diesel that Gaza residents may purchase to 2.2 million liters weekly, last week it permitted only 1.95 million liters of supply. Gaza’s power plant needs 3.5 million liters weekly plus approximately 2 million liters to replenish reserves.
Since Israel bombed Gaza’s power plant in June 2006, Gaza residents have suffered from power outages that were subsiding – until the latest cuts. Israel controls Gaza’s borders and does not allow residents to purchase fuel except via Israel.