Gisha Calls for Resumption of Fuel Supplies to Gaza

Gaza’s Power Plant may have to reduce production as early as Tuesday if industrial diesel supply is not resumed

Sun., April 13, 2008 –  Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement appealed today to Israel’s Defense Minister to restore fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip via Nahal Oz, the only crossing through which Israel permits Gaza residents to purchase fuel. Nahal Oz has been closed since Wednesday, following an attack in which militants from Gaza killed two Israeli civilians working at the crossing.

Gisha warned in a letter that Gaza’s power plant was exhausting its usable reserves and might have to reduce production as early as Tuesday, if supply is not restored.

While Israel mostly allowed supply through Nahal Oz until last week, since October 2007, it has drastically restricted the quantity permitted to enter Gaza. The restrictions have created chronic shortages that leave civilian institutions such as hospitals, water wells, and Gaza’s power plant vulnerable even to brief supply interruptions of a few days, because fuel reserves are so low.

The cuts to Gaza’s fuel supply are part of punitive measures taken against Gaza residents, pursuant to an Israeli Cabinet decision calling for restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza. In January 2008, Israel’s Supreme Court approved the fuel cuts, in a decision condemned by human rights groups as authorizing illegal collective punishment.

The fuel cuts have exacerbated the electricity shortage in Gaza that has existed since Israel destroyed Gaza’s electricity transformers in June 2006. Israel permits Gaza’s power plant to receive just 2.2 million liters of industrial diesel per week – even though it needs 3.5 million liters per week to operate at capacity. Currently, Gaza suffers from rolling blackouts of approximately three hours per day.

The restrictions on supply of gasoline and ordinary diesel, also pumped through Nahal Oz, have paralyzed civil services and transportation in Gaza, forcing some private schools to close because of the inability to transport students to classes and disrupting university classes and exams. Gasoline supplies have been cut by 81%, while ordinary diesel has been cut by 43%. A strike by petroleum company owners since April 7, 2008 has exacerbated the shortages of gasoline and ordinary diesel but has not affected supplies of industrial diesel, which is shipped directly to the power plant under supervision from the European Union, which funds the industrial diesel.

According to Gisha’s Director, Sari Bashi: "Israel has the right to protect itself against attacks on its civilians. But just as international law forbids deliberately harming Israeli civilians working at Nahal Oz, so it forbids deliberately harming civilians in Gaza, by depriving them of the fuel they need to produce electricity, travel, and run vital services. Israel, which does not permit fuel to enter Gaza except via Nahal Oz, must permit resumption of supply."

Facts about Israel’s fuel cuts to Gaza:

Israel began instituting fuel cuts to Gaza on October 28, 2007, as part of a governmental decision calling for punitive measures against Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.

Before the cuts, Gaza residents were ordering approximately 1.4 million liters ordinary diesel per week – currently, Israel permits only 800,000 liters/week – a reduction of 43%. This is particularly detrimental, because rolling power outages, currently standing at approximately three hours per day, have increased dependency on diesel-powered generators.

Before the cuts, Gaza residents were ordering approximately 350,000-400,000 liters petrol (gasoline) per week – currently, Israel permits only 75,400 liters/week – a reduction of 78%-81%.

Israel permits Gaza residents to purchase just 2.2 million liters industrial diesel/week, needed for Gaza’s power plant, even though the plant needs 3.5 million liters/week in order to operate at capacity. The plant is able to produce just 55 megawatts electricity, instead of the 80 megawatts it could produce, were it allowed to procure enough industrial diesel.

Gaza needs 240 MW electricity in the peak season. Israel supplies 120 MW, Egypt supplies 17 MW, and Gaza’s power plant is currently producing only 55 MW – meaning that there is a deficit of up to 20%.
Beginning April 7, the owners of Gaza’s petroleum companies began striking to protest the fuel cuts and have not accepted the limited fuel shipments permitted. The strike affects supplies of diesel and benzene, but not industrial diesel, which is transferred directly from Nahal Oz to the power plant, under the supervision of European Union monitors. Since last Wednesday, Israel has stopped all industrial diesel supplies to the power plant through Nahal Oz. The power plant is in danger of exhausting its usable reserves as early as Tuesday if fuel supplies are not resumed.