A catastrophic humanitarian situation is about to become even worse. It’s been over a month of a complete blackout in Gaza following Israel decision to cut its electricity supply as well as completely block the entry of fuel into the Strip both through Israel and Egypt. Since October 21, Israel has allowed a small amount of aid to enter the south of Gaza via Egypt, limited to water, food and some medical supplies – but its ban on entry of fuel to Gaza is still in place. 

Fuel is necessary for the survival of Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are under ongoing bombardment and military attack by Israel. It’s needed urgently for ambulances and backup generators at medical facilities, to distribute water, keep bakeries running, and to operate telecommunication systems. 

Many hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the Strip, such as water desalination facilities, have shut down entirely. Paltel, the Palestinian telecommunications company, warns that all communications will stop today (November 16) due to the lack of fuel.  

According to the UN, people in the north of Gaza have no access to clean water, and the lack of fuel is impacting people’s access to water in the middle and south of the Strip as well. Coupled with the shut down of sanitation facilities, there is an imminent risk of water contamination and further outbreak and spread of diseases. 

The entry and distribution of life-saving aid in Gaza also relies on fuel. Yesterday (November 15), UNRWA reported receiving around 23,000 liters of fuel from Israeli authorities following a request from the US administration but it can only be used to refuel trucks  (this would be the equivalent of fuel for some 40 trucks). UNRWA says it requires 160,000 liters per day to maintain its humanitarian operations overall 

Israel’s ongoing ban on the entry of fuel is a deadly gamble with the health and safety of Gaza’s entire civilian population, more than 70% of whom are internally displaced. Israel’s performative ‘gestures’ such as reportedly placing 300 liters of fuel outside of Al Shifa hospital (which would only be enough for 15-30 minutes of power, according to the hospital director) or the incubators delivered to the hospital (which cannot operate without electricity) don’t begin to mediate the catastrophe in the Strip. 

Without safe drinking water, electricity, sufficient food and shelters, communications networks, and sanitation services, Gaza is headed for an even darker disaster. Israel’s deliberate obstruction of life-saving humanitarian aid is a war crime, as is collective punishment.