Gisha in FOIA requests to Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, and Electric Corporation: Provide crucial information on reduction of electricity supply to Gaza

Thursday,  June 22, 2017: Yesterday, Gisha sent urgent Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of Defense (MOD), and the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) requesting information on the decision to reduce electricity supply to the Gaza Strip, its implementation, and the measures taken to avert a humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

On Monday, Israel began implementing a Security Cabinet decision to decrease the electricity supply sold to Gaza (120 megawatts (MW) through ten power lines). As reported to Gisha this morning by Gaza Electricity Distribution Company spokesperson, Mohammad Thabet, Israel decreased a further 16 MW from four of the supply lines to Gaza, bringing the total reduction as of today to 48 MW, or 40 percent of the electricity that Israel had been selling to Gaza. The amount of electricity sold and supplied to Gaza by Israel is currently 72 MW. Due to an apparent technical malfunction, the supply of electricity Gaza receives from Egypt currently stands at about 20 MW, instead of 28 MW.

According to media reports, 1.2 million liters of diesel for Gaza’s power plant (which had been out of commission since mid-April) entered Gaza yesterday via Egypt. Gisha was informed that two of the plant’s turbines began operating last night, supplying 45 MW. The fuel that entered yesterday would be enough to support operations for three days, making it a very partial, short-term solution. More is expected to enter today. Residents of Gaza currently receive 5-6 hours of electricity, followed by 12-hour power cuts. As of this morning, the electricity available to the Strip was about 137 MW in total.

In a letter to the MOD sent last week, Gisha cautioned that by reducing electricity supply to the Gaza Strip, Israel is knowingly aggravating an already dangerous situation, which causes immediate harm to residents of Gaza and put citizens of Israel at risk as well. A coalition of 16 civil society organizations sent an urgent letter to Israel’s attorney general last week, stressing the unlawfulness of the cabinet’s decision under both Israeli and international law, and demanding that he advise the cabinet to rescind it immediately. The attorney general’s full response has not yet been received. Neither Gaza residents nor the Israeli public have been informed about the manner in which the decision was reached, its details or the plans for its implementation, including measures taken by Israel to prevent grave harm to the civilian population of Gaza.

In the urgent FOIA requests submitted yesterday to the PMO and the MOD, Gisha requested information on the discussions held by these offices prior to the decision, including questions as follows: What were the positions of cabinet members on the proposed decision? What professional assessments were presented to them regarding the anticipated impact on the lives of Gaza residents? What plans have been made to prevent grave harm to residents of the Strip, as a likely consequence of the reduction? Has Israel made preparations to facilitate entrance of spare parts for generators and other equipment needed for the maintenance of Gaza’s collapsing infrastructure, due to deteriorate further as a result of the reductions?

In the FOIA request sent to the IEC, Gisha added a request for information on the status of implementation of the plan to construct “Line 161.” According to a May 2017 post on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel commited before the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to provide the Gaza Strip with an additional 100 MW, the goal of which is to “promote the civilian interests of Palestinians in order to improve their quality of life, and thereby bring about stability and prosperity for the general public,” as COGAT wrote (screenshot attached).

Even prior to the latest developments in the current crisis in Gaza, demand for electricity was almost double the overall power produced and supplied to Gaza (400-450 MW). The dire state of Gaza’s infrastructure necessitates a comprehensive, sustainable, and long-term solution.

Links to the Freedom of Information requests sent to the PMO, here; to the MOD, here; to the IEC, here. Screen shot from COGAT website, here.