Gaza’s power plant to close after Israel blocks fuel supplies

Thurs., Dec. 26, 2013: Gaza's power plant is expected to shut down, its director warned today, deepening Gaza's electricity crisis, after Israel blocked fuel supplies by closing Gaza's only goods crossing. Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement condemned the crossing closure, which came in response to sniper fire that killed an Israeli civilian, as an act of collective punishment.
 
The power plant director, Rafiq Maliha, said that fuel supplies were dwindling and that he expected to shut down the power plant tomorrow.
 
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered (Hebrew) the closing of Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza's sole remaining entry and exit point for goods. The move came hours after an Israeli civilian working for the Defense Ministry was shot to death by fire originating in Gaza. A military official was quoted on the Israeli news website Walla! as saying that the Kerem Shalom crossing serves as "powerful economic leverage" and that "we'll see how the gas shortage affects Gaza within 24 hours".
 
Ya’alon said only recently (Hebrew) that "People who talk about peace and coexistence must talk about construction, about prosperity, about economy and not about destruction that leads to rockets being fired from Gaza". The closure of Kerem Shalom prevented yesterday, among other things, the planned entrance of 600,000 liters of industrial diesel intended for the power plant. An estimated 19 tons of strawberries and cherry tomatoes and 100,000 flowers were also scheduled for export to Europe yesterday and today.
 
Since Egypt closed underground smuggling tunnels on its border, Gaza has become even more dependent on Kerem Shalom, especially for the diesel needed to fuel its power plant. Already, Gaza residents experience blackouts of 12 hours a day, due to a chronic power shortage.
 
According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi: "Israel can and must protect its citizens, but the timing of the closure and the statements accompanying it suggest that it is a punitive measure, primarily harming civilians and civilian infrastructure. Just as international law forbids targeting civilians, so it forbids punishing them for acts they did not commit".