In a new position paper, Gisha asks: Who Turned out the Lights in Gaza?
• Since early 2010, at any given time, 30% of Gaza residents do not have electricity.
• This deterioration comes against the backdrop of years of harm to the functioning of Gaza’s power plant from air attacks as well as restrictions imposed by Israel on the transfer of industrial diesel.
• Payment rates on electricity bills have dropped drastically since 2000 due to the ever worsening economic situation in Gaza.
• Israel retains residual responsibility to provide for the normal functioning of Gaza’s electricity system.
• The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are responsible to protect the rights of Gaza residents and must coordinate to ensure adequate supply of electricity.
Wed., June 16, 2010 – Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement published today a new position paper: "Electricity Shortage in Gaza: Who Turned out the Lights?" about Gaza’s current electricity crisis and what can be done to solve it. The Gaza Strip presently experiences 8-12 hours of scheduled power outages per day, disrupting the normal functioning of humanitarian infrastructure, including health and educational institutions, water and sewage systems, and the agricultural sector. The power outages have also resulted in human fatalities, with people killed or injured using generators brought into Gaza through the tunnels, which are of poor quality and are not always used safely.
The current shortage is another stage in a process, over many years, of "turning out the lights" in Gaza. Because Gaza’s power plant has not been permitted to function at its maximum capacity, residents of Gaza have for a long time suffered from permanent electricity shortages. The crisis began with the bombing of the Gaza Strip’s power plant in June 2006 by the Israeli air force. Starting in October 2007, Israel has perpetuated the crisis by imposing restrictions on the amount of industrial diesel that can be transferred to the power station. The situation again further deteriorated in November 2009 when the European Union (EU) stopped directly funding industrial diesel for the power plant and returned this responsibility to the Palestinian Authority. Since the beginning of 2010, only a small amount of industrial diesel has been transferred to the Gaza Strip, and, accordingly, the power plant has been forced to reduce its output. The electricity deficit in Gaza has risen to approximately 30%. The Palestinian Authority says it does not allocate sufficient funding for the industrial diesel due to lack of resources, and it asks that residents of Gaza pay their electricity bills to meet the shortfall. Since 2000, the collection rate on electricity bills in Gaza has dropped from 83% to 39%, against the backdrop of Palestinian residents of Gaza being denied entry to work in Israel and the worsening economic situation.
Gisha calls on Israel to allow the unrestricted transfer of industrial diesel to Gaza according to the needs of the population and the electrical system in the Gaza Strip, rather than according to arbitrary quotas, and to allow the free passage of raw materials, spare parts and building materials for the electrical system. Gisha emphasizes the duty of the Palestinian Authority and of Hamas to operate in coordination with all relevant parties, including each other and Gaza’s electricity company (GEDCo), to allow proper electricity supply, and to make the rights of Gaza residents their top priority. Gisha emphasizes that the EU’s previous commitment to take responsibility for the purchase of industrial diesel, although it was not obligated to do so, has created a situation of dependence upon its funding. Therefore, in the event of a change to the EU’s role, the EU should continue to work in coordination with the relevant authorities, in order to ensure that the electricity needs of the civilian population in Gaza are met.