No significant change
September 16, 2014. The certain easing of restrictions we reported on last week, based on Palestinian sources, received official confirmation yesterday in a Ministry of Defense update (Hebrew). Included are an increase in the age of children allowed to accompany parents on humanitarian visits from six to 15; a daily quota of 200 merchants permitted to exit Gaza and an increase in the overall number of merchants cleared for exit to 2,000. These are welcome changes, even if minor considering what is required for Gaza’s recovery.
Kerem Shalom Crossing
The crossing has returned to function exactly as it did prior to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in the West Bank in mid-June: it is open five days per week until the afternoon, allowing the entry of goods for the private sector and aid organizations and of fuel for the private sector and the United Nations. In addition, small amounts of construction materials enter for projects run by international organizations.
The number of trucks entering Gaza has increased since the latest hostilities ended. This is mostly due to increased consumer demand now that people no longer remain indoors and in shelters as well as increased demand for humanitarian aid and entry of goods that had been held at Ashdod Port during the military operation. This week the numbers already appeared to be stabilizing to previous averages.
During the month of August, unlike during the period prior to Operation Protective Edge, Rafah Crossing was open most days of the week (including Friday and Saturday), allowing exit by Palestinians with dual citizenship and those who have foreign visas or residency status, as well as people injured during the hostilities and urgent medical cases. In August, 9,299 exits from Gaza to Egypt were recorded, compared to an average of 3,120 exits per month during the first half of 2014 and a monthly average of 20,348 during the first half of 2013, before Egypt’s regime change. Though Rafah was open almost every day in August, Egypt caps the number of passengers permitted to travel each day and not all people eligible for travel according to the above cited categories actually get out. The demand for exiting Gaza is much higher.
On September 2, Israel allowed construction materials destined for international aid organizations and the Palestinian Water Authority to enter for the first time since early July. During the first two weeks of September, 25 trucks carrying cement destined for international organizations and 46 trucks carrying gravel for international aid organizations and the Palestinian Water Authority entered Gaza.
Construction materials continue to trickle in this week as well, but the amounts are a fraction of what is needed in order to advance reconstruction at a reasonable pace.
Yesterday, goods were exported out of Gaza for the first time since June – a single truck carrying four tons of sweet potatoes. This is the first time this type of produce is being exported to Europe. Another truck (carrying 4.3 tons) of sweet potatoes left today en route to Europe.
From the beginning of the year until the end of August, Gaza exported 11 truckloads per month on average – less than 1% of the monthly average before the closure was imposed in 2007.
The assessment of damage to water and sanitation infrastructure in the Gaza Strip has been completed. A quarter of the 24 water delivery stations have been completely destroyed. Six more were damaged. Two of the 21 water purification facilities were destroyed and four others were damaged. Eleven of 200 water wells were destroyed and five of 26 water reservoirs (located in areas that are not hooked up to the water delivery system) were damaged. Eleven other reservoirs were damaged during the fighting.
Three of the five sewage treatment facilities and 12 of the 45 sewage pumping stations were damaged. About ten kilometers of sewage pipes (of 775 km) were damaged and 20 km more were damaged.
The power station
Gaza’s power station was bombed on two occasions during Operation Protective Edge. One steam turbine and one gas turbine were destroyed. The other three gas turbines and one steam turbine that were damaged have been repaired. In addition, the power station’s two large fuel reservoirs, with a 10 million cubic liter capacity each, were destroyed. Another smaller reservoir, with a one million litre capacity, was damaged and attempts to repair it are underway.
Last week, the station ordered a million litres of fuel from the Palestinian Authority in order to test the turbines at the plant, however, as of the writing of the update, the request had not been answered. Station management estimates losses incurred as a result of the damage at about 16 million USD.