Gaza’s power plant renews operations, despite lack of guarantees about safety

Gaza’s sole power plant

Gaza’s sole power plant

July 24, 2014. Gaza’s power plant, which was reportedly damaged by two separate Israeli airstrikes yesterday early in the morning and the night prior, renewed operations last night. The plant’s operators managed to run two turbines that had not damaged. Currently, the plant is producing less than 50 megawatts of electricity. The plant’s management requested a guarantee that the plant would not be struck again, yet Israeli officials have yet to give it.

Also yesterday evening, reports indicated that six electrical workers were wounded in hostilities while on duty en route to the Rafah area.

Crossings 

Kerem Shalom Crossing was open today between 9am and 3pm for entrance of food, fuel and medicine. Approximately 150 truckloads of goods were expected to enter, plus an additional 27 truckloads of fuel.

Erez Crossing was open for passage of medical patients and their companions, and foreign citizens, between 11am and 4pm. On the Palestinian side of the crossing, where in the past Hamas officials were located, was not staffed due to hostilities in the area and passage is not being blocked. Some medical patients crossed in both directions, but traffic remained mostly of foreign journalists.

Rafah Crossing operated from 9am to 3pm for the transit of casualties of the military operation, holders of foreign residency/citizenship and their families.

July 23, 2014. Gaza’s sole power plant suffered a direct hit in ongoing hostilities in the Strip yesterday and today. One of the offices at the plant and two of the plant’s turbines were damaged. The plant has been shut down until further notice due both to the damage and also because operators at the plant are fearful for their safety should they return to the site. The International Committee of the Red Cross is reportedly attempting to coordinate repairs to the plant with Israel. The plant’s management is demanding guarantees from Israel that the plant won’t be targeted again.

Food prices

Residents of Gaza report increases in the price of vegetables over the past few weeks, mainly resulting from the fact that farmers can’t reach and harvest their lands or get their produce to market. The price of tomatoes rose from 1.5 shekels to 4 shekels per kilogram and the price of cucumbers from 2 shekels to 5 per kilo. In some places, goods which require refrigeration such as yogurt, cream, and frozen meat and vegetables are not available due to shortages of electricity.

Infrastructure

Out of 120 megawatts of electricity that Gaza purchases from Israel, only 48 MW are currently flowing to the Strip due to damage to infrastructure which has occurred during the hostilities. In addition, Gaza’s sole power plant, which had been producing 50 MW of electricity, is no longer functioning, having suffered direct hits and damage. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are completely without electricity, and hundreds of thousands more experience rolling blackouts of up to 22 hours per day. These numbers are likely to rise.

Due to the lack of electricity, water and sewage infrastructure is also functioning at less than capacity. Pumping of water to houses for domestic consumption and to medical facilities has been interrupted, as has pumping for sewage treatment and transport. Like electricity infrastructure, water and sewage infrastructure has also been damaged in the course of hostilities. Three technicians from Gaza’s water utility, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, were reportedly killed while on duty.

Infrastructure officials warn of a pending humanitarian and environmental catastrophe resulting from lack of access to water as well as severe health risks due to the overflow of raw sewage in neighborhoods and into the water supply.

About 80 million liters of untreated sewage flow directly into the sea every day. A third of Gaza’s water wells are not functioning because technicians are afraid to go out for maintenance and repair work and remaining wells are only working between 6-8 hours per day, due to lack of electricity.

According to reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), as of July 22, 2014, at 3pm, 1.2 million people – more than half of Gaza’s population – were affected by lack of adequate access to water and sanitation services.

In response to the humanitarian situation, Gisha and eleven other Israeli human rights organizations sent an urgent letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The organizations demand that at the end of the hostilities, Israel remove all restrictions on movement to and from Gaza beyond those necessary for addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and allow the entrance of spare parts, fuel and construction materials needed for the repair and maintenance of critical civilian infrastructure.

Crossings

Kerem Shalom, the sole commercial crossing to Gaza, continues to operate under a restricted format for the transfer of fuel, food and medicine. Today, approximately 106 truckloads of goods entered the Strip. In addition, 23 truckloads of fuel and cooking gas were also transferred. Kerem Shalom operated from 9am this morning.

Erez Crossing is also operating under a restricted format for the transit of medical patients and their companions. Today, ten medical patients and their companions and seven medical emergencies will travel via Erez today, six of whom will go on to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge crossing.

Rafah Crossing operated from 9am to 3pm for the transit of casualties of the military operation, holders of foreign residency/citizenship and their families. Despite the fact that the crossing was also meant to operate under the same format yesterday, no one was permitted to leave the Strip via Rafah.

Erez crossing. Photo: Karl Schembri

Erez crossing. Photo: Karl Schembri

July 22, 2014. In spite of a few reports of people crossing via Erez, the crossing remained closed for the majority of the day, for both travel to and from Gaza. Yesterday, Erez was closed on the Palestinian side as employees were unable to reach the crossing because of ongoing hostilities. Only two cases – both medical emergencies and a number of foreign journalists transited via the crossing.

Kerem Shalom Crossing operated for only five hours today from 9:30 -14:30 and only for the transfer of fuel, food and medicine. The security situation continues to make it difficult for Palestinian trucks to reach the crossing in order to load goods. Today, 20 truckloads of fuel and cooking gas were expected to be transferred via the crossing, along with 50 truckloads of civilian goods.

Rafah Crossing was meant to be opened today to casualties of the military operation, holders of foreign residency/citizenship and their families. However as of now, no one has been permitted to transit via the crossing. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, prior coordination for travel via Rafah has not been required (for those groups eligible to travel). However, only very small numbers of people have actually exited via the crossing. Many people in Gaza have been unable to travel to the crossing because of the continued hostilities, and those who have managed to reach Rafah have not always been given permission to leave.

July 21, 2014. Kerem Shalom Crossing, the sole commercial crossing to Gaza, operated today between 11am–2:30pm. The crossing continues to operate for the transfer of food, fuel and medicine only. Yesterday 48 truckloads of goods passed through the crossing, while today approximately 40 truckloads crossed, or about 20-25% of the daily volume of goods that entered Gaza in June. In addition, yesterday 12 truckloads of fuel entered and today six truckloads entered, or about 24% of the daily quantity of fuel that entered in June. Palestinian truck drivers continued to report difficulty in reaching the crossing due to ongoing hostilities and concerns over safety.

Erez Crossing, for pedestrian transit between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, was closed both on the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the crossing following security incidents in the area.

Rafah Crossing was open today for transit of casualties.

July 20, 2014. Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s sole commercial crossing, was open today in a restricted format for transfer of food, fuel and medicine. As a result of ongoing hostilities, truck drivers inside Gaza reported difficulty in reaching the crossing. It is not yet known whether all the goods that had been expected to cross were actually transferred.

Erez Crossing was open for transit of medical patients and their companions and foreign citizens.

Rafah Crossing was open for transit of casualties of the military operation and holders of foreign residency and citizenship. Humanitarian aid shipments were also expected to enter.

Six out of ten high tension power lines running from Israel into the Strip have been damaged, leaving hundreds of thousands of people completely without power, while hundreds of thousands more receive between 2-5 hours of electricity per day.

According to reports by the United Nations’ Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 900,000 people – or about half the population – were affected by lack of adequate access to water and sanitation services. As a result of shortages of electricity, unprecedented amounts of untreated sewage are being dumped directly into the sea.