The severe shortage of cooking gas in the Gaza Strip has attracted scant media and public attention over the past two months. Generally, since the closure was imposed in 2007, the average monthly amount of cooking gas that Israel allows into the Strip has met only 56% of needs in Gaza. The situation worsened in the past two months, however, with only 1,202 tons of cooking gas being transferred in November up, constituting only 20% of the amount needed. The shortage has many implications: hospitals experience difficulties boiling water for sterilization and providing food and clean laundry to patients; bakeries have closed down; many families cannot cook; and thousands of chickens are at risk of death because their coops cannot be heated. The World Food Program has announced that the emergency cooking gas supply has been exhausted in all of the 40 institutions that it operates in Gaza.
The reason for the dramatic drop in the supply of gas (which has coincided with Israeli declarations of a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid) relates to the ongoing Israeli trend of restricting the operation of the Gaza Strip border crossings. Recent construction at Kerem Shalom has equipped the crossing for the transfer of fuel and gas, but the pipeline installed has a significantly lower capacity than the two existing pipelines at Nahal Oz (100 tons per day verses 400 tons). The combination of the low capacity, the distance between the crossing and the existing storage facilities, and the extreme restrictions on the opening of Nahal Oz (just one day a week, as opposed to three days a week at Kerem Shalom), has led to a drastic drop in the amount of cooking gas being supplied to Gaza.
Currently 20 out of 30 gas distribution stations in Gaza are closed. The implications for the people, economy and society of Gaza are clear.