Today Supreme Court Heard Rights Groups’ Petition Against Disrupting Electricity and Fuel Supplies to the Gaza Strip

The Court gave the State one week to explain how it will verify the consequences of diminishing the electricity and fuel supply to the Gaza Strip, and what kind of monitoring mechanism will allow them to measure the humanitarian impact.

In light of the Court’s comments and in light of the current damage to civil infrastructure, the petitioners – Gisha, Addalah and more HR organizations – expect the State to refrain from further cuts in the fuel supply.

Thu., November 7, 2007 – Ten Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, in cooperation with the deputy director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and a farmer from Beit Hanoun asked the Supreme Court to order the State to abstain from disrupting the electricity and fuel supplies to the Strip and to revoke the decision of the Defense Cabinet from Sep. 19, 2007, regarding the punishment of Gaza’s civilian population. The petitioners argue that the decision to disrupt electricity and fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip is clearly illegal, and its implementation endangers innocent civilians. This is not an "economic boycott" pure and simple, the petitioners argue. While imposing economic sanctions on Gaza, Israel controls the Strip’s borders and prevents others from supplying Gaza fuel and electricity.

The hearing took place on the backdrop of damage to civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, caused by the reduction in fuel supply to the Strip. The water and sewage systems in the Strip rely on regular and adequate supply of diesel fuel, which is used to operate pumps supplying clean water to the residents and pumping the sewage. Maher Najjar, the Deputy Director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and one of the petitioners claims "Currently…due to the lack of fuel to pump the water from the wells, at any given time 15% of the population in Gaza are not receiving an adequate amount of running water to their homes. Even if the current, diminished supply of fuel remains the same, the percentage of population that is not receiving clean water will continue to increase as more water wells become inactive. Currently, there is no spare fuel to run the water system, and the sewage system has enough fuel only to last for one more week." The petitioners emphasized the dependency of the population of the Gaza Strip on Israel for their electricity and fuel needs. "In 38 years of Israel’s direct control of Gaza, prior to the implementation of the ‘disengagement plan’, Israel has permitted the establishment of a local electricity network with an extremely limited capacity…, a year after implementing the ‘disengagement’ plan, Israel bombed and destroyed that local power plant … this course of events imposes duties on Israel towards the population of the Gaza Strip in general, and in the field of electricity supply in particular.” Jamil Muhammad Sliman Ali, director of the public hospital in Beit Hanoun, emphasizes the hospital’s reliance on generators: "In case the generators cease to operate due to an internal malfunction or lack of fuel, the outcome will be a humanitarian disaster. For example, if an electrical blackout occurs while performing an abdominal operation on a patient, and the generator does not operate – the surgeon has only half an hour to finish the operation, which jeopardizes the life of the patient…"

"It is impossible to monitor the stocks in Gaza, reduce the quantity of fuels entering the Strip and to ‘only put pressure on’ vital systems without damaging them" argue Prof. Kenneth Mann of Gisha and attorney Fatmeh El-Ajou of Adalah. "Israel is consciously and actively causing a shortage in fuels, which directly harms vital systems and the supply of clean water to civilians".

Adalah – The LegalCenter for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Al –Haq
Mezan Center for Human Rights