Israel’s Fuel Cuts Cause 30% Reduction in Gaza Power Plant Production

Up to 8 Hours Daily Rolling Blackouts Scheduled

Human Rights Groups Ask Supreme Court to Intervene Immediately

Sun., January 6, 2008 – Gaza’s power plant has cut electricity production by 30%, beginning yesterday, because of the Israeli military’s restrictions on the supply of industrial diesel to Gaza. The cuts began yesterday after the plant exhausted its fuel reserves. The cuts are scheduled to cause up to 8 hours of daily power outages to residents of central Gaza and Gaza City, including disruptions to Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, sewage treatment plants, water wells, clinics, and other vital humanitarian institutions.

Ten human rights groups, represented by Gisha and Adalah, asked Israel’s Supreme Court to intervene, claiming that the amount of industrial diesel that Israel allows to enter Gaza (diesel which is funded entirely by the European Union) is insufficient to run the power plant. On Thursday night, January 3, the groups submitted an urgent request to Israel’s Supreme Court to stop the restrictions on industrial diesel supply and asked for a hearing on Friday morning, Jan. 4, in the hope of preventing the power outages. The court ordered the state to respond by Tuesday, January 8, but in the meantime, the power plant’s reserves reached the "red line".

The power plant began cutting the amount of electricity produced yesterday, for lack of fuel. The plant cut production from 65 megawatts to 45 megawatts. "Because of the shortage of industrial diesel, we cut local electricity production by 30%," Dr. Rafiq Maliha, Project Manager-Contracts for the Gaza production company, said in one of two affidavits submitted to the Supreme Court. Israel controls Gaza’s borders and does not allow fuel to enter Gaza, except via an Israeli-controlled crossing.

Israel’s Supreme Court had ordered the state in late November not to cut the electricity that the Israeli Electric Company provides to Gaza, at least until receipt of information to back the state’s claim that it could cut electricity to Gaza without cutting electricity to hospitals and other vital institutions. The petitioners claim that any cut to electricity supply will necessarily harm humanitarian institutions.

Gisha’s Executive Director Sari Bashi, said: “The cuts to industrial diesel, used exclusively to power the turbines in Gaza’s power plant, mean longer and more frequent power outages for hospitals, water wells, and other humanitarian services, in blatant violation of international law."

Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-‘Ajou, said: "Israel is repeatedly bringing Gaza residents below the ‘humanitarian red line’, showing that it has no ability to monitor the humanitarian situation as it has promised, but rather is continuing to deliberately harm the most basic humanitarian needs, as part of collective punishment measures against the civilian population there."

Background on the Petition, HCJ 9132/07:

On October 28, 2007, ten Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups–Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Al –Haq, and Mezan Center for Human Rights – together with Gaza residents, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court against punitive measures approved by Israel’s Cabinet that, among other things, cut fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza. The groups claimed that the measures constitute collective punishment and harm innocent civilians, in violation of international law. Following a November 29, 2007 hearing, Israel’s Supreme Court permitted, for the time, the fuel cuts but ordered the state not to cut electricity, at least pending further clarifications. The court asked the state to back its claim that it could cut electricity without causing humanitarian damage. In contrast, the petitioners argued that any cut in electricity supplies, controlled by Israel, is illegal, and that it would necessarily cause power outages in hospitals and other humanitarian institutions, because the electricity lines in Gaza do not permit differentiation.

In late December, the state announced that it would deepen petrol (gasoline) cuts by up to 43%, would restore ordinary diesel to pre-cut levels, and would maintain the cuts to industrial diesel. On December 23, 2007, the human rights groups asked for an injunction against the deeper petrol (gasoline) cuts, arguing, among other things, that they are preventing Health Ministry workers from reaching those in need. On January 3, the Supreme Court rejected the request for an injunction against the petrol (gasoline) cuts, but did not comment on the rest of the fuel cuts.

Later that day, the rights groups asked for an injunction against the continued industrial diesel cuts, necessary for the power plant to produce electricity. The court ordered the state to respond by Tuesday, January 8, at 10 am.