Gaza Power Plant to Close Tomorrow Night if Fuel Supply Not Resumed

Gisha Warns State Attorney’s Office: The military is violating its commitment to the Israeli Supreme Court

Tue., April 22, 2008 –  Following two weeks of fuel stoppages, Gaza’s power plant is running out of usable industrial diesel and will shut down tomorrow night if fuel supplies are not restored. "In case there are no sufficient fuel deliveries, GPGC would be forced to shut down the power plant completely by tomorrow evening time," warned power plant Project Manager Rafiq Maliha in a letter to the Palestinian Energy Authority. Last night, the plant cut production to just 45 MW (from 55 MW).

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement sent an urgent letter to the State Attorney’s office warning that the supply stoppages violate the state’s commitment to the Israeli Supreme Court to permit a "minimum" amount of fuel to enter Gaza. Gisha requested a response by the end of today, in order to preserve the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court before the feared shut-down.

If the power plant shuts down, utility officials expect power outages of 8-16 hours per day throughout Gaza – power outages which increase reliance on dwindling reserves of fuel for back-up generators.

The fuel stoppage began on April 9, 2008, when Israel closed Nahal Oz, the only crossing through which Israel permits Gaza residents to purchase fuel, following an attack that killed two Israeli civilians working at the crossing. Since then, Israel has completely blocked supplies of petrol and ordinary diesel and has allowed just half of the minimum supply of industrial diesel needed for the power plant to function.

The cuts to Gaza’s fuel supply are part of punitive measures taken against Gaza residents, pursuant to a September 2007 Israeli Cabinet decision. Israel’s Supreme Court approved the fuel cuts in a January 2008 decision condemned by human rights groups as authorizing illegal collective punishment. The continued closure of Nahal Oz violates even the minimal commitment made by the state to Israel’s Supreme Court, to permit Gaza residents to receive specified levels of fuel.

The fuel cuts have caused severe and chronic shortages, which have been amplified by a strike by Gaza fuel distributors since April 7, 2008. The strike does not affect the industrial diesel, which is delivered directly to Gaza’s power plant through the funding and supervision of the European Union. Transportation has been paralyzed in Gaza. All four of Gaza’s universities have closed, hospitals have reduced services, garbage is piling up in the streets, and the pumping of water and sewage has been disrupted.

According to Gisha’s Director, Sari Bashi: "This dangerous game of keeping Gaza’s infrastructure in perpetual crisis must end. So long as Israel controls Gaza’s borders, it must allow Gaza residents to receive the fuel they need to travel, to run vital institutions, and to generate electricity."