Gaza Electricity, Water and Sewage Systems on Verge of Collapse

Following prevention of fuel supplies, destruction of electricity lines:

· 7 of 12 power lines damaged à 75% of Gaza’s electricity cut off.

· Gaza City, including Shifa Hospital, entirely without electricity.

· Over half a million residents cut off from water supply.

· Sewage spilling into streets, risk of more flooding.

· No fuel permitted into Gaza since start of military operation.

Sun., January 4, 2009 –  Gaza’s water and sewage system is on the verge of collapse following bombardments that have destroyed electricity lines and months of preventing fuel supplies needed to produce electricity,utility officials in Gaza warned today. 75% of Gaza’s electricity has been cut off, just as hospitals, water wells, and other humanitarian institutions most need electricity to treat casualties of the fighting and provide basic necessities to civilians. Hospitals, including Gaza’s main Shifa Hospital, are struggling to function under 24-hour per day power outages.

As of yesterday, all Gaza City and most of the Northern Area are without electricity and there is limited electricity in Rafah, following attacks yesterday that shut down 6 of 10 power lines from Israel and 1 of 2 power lines from Egypt. Gaza City’s local power plant shut down Dec. 30, after months in which Israel prevented supplies of industrial diesel needed to generate electricity. No fuel has been permitted into Gaza since the military operation began on Dec. 27. The Gaza Strip is currently receiving just 25% of its total electricity need of 240 MW. Palestinian technicians cannot reach the damaged lines because of the military attacks; other repairs must be made on the Israeli side.

Maher Najjar, Deputy Director of Gaza’s water utility (CMWU), warned that 48 of Gaza’s 130 water wells are not working at all due to lack of electricity and damage to the pipes. At least 45 additional water wells are operating only partially and will shut down within days without additional supplies of fuel and electricity. Well over half a million people are entirely cut off from supply of water, and the rest are in danger of losing water supply within days. In addition, sewage is flooding into populated areas, farmland, and the sea, after 5 of Gaza’s 37 wastewater pumping stations shut down due to lack of electricity. The remaining 32 stations, operating only partially, will shut down within 3-4 days if they don’t receive more fuel.

According to Mr. Najjar, CMWU: "The water and sewage system in Gaza is collapsing, cutting people off from water supply and causing sewage to flood the streets."

According to Shifa Hospital, fuel reserves for back-up generators will run out by the end of the week. The generators are insufficient to heat the wards or properly operate oxygen machines. The hospital has had no electricity for the past 48 hours.

According to Nidal Toman, Engineer and Project Manager for GEDCO, Gaza’s electricity company, Israel has yet to coordinate repair of the lines or approve the entrance of necessary spare parts: "Eight months ago we made an orderly request for … spare parts. The order was paid in full. For the past eight months, the parts have been stuck in Ashdod Port and Karni Crossing, but Israel adamantly refused to allow them into Gaza," said Mr. Toman.

According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi: "How many civilians must go without water and how many hospital patients must go without electricity before Israel recognizes the humanitarian crisis and restores fuel and electricity supply?"

Israel has deliberately restricted fuel supplies into Gaza since October 2007 and especially since November 4, 2008, despite repeated calls by human rights groups to restore supply. The groups have claimed that under international law and Israel precedent, Israel must take responsibility for the welfare of the civilian population suffering from the effects of the military attacks.