Sewage floods neighborhoods in Gaza City

Sewage flowing in Gaza, 2010

November 15-21, 2013. The Gaza power plant has been shut down for 21 days • Fuel shortages cause raw sewage to flood residential neighborhoods in the Strip • Gaza drivers use cooking gas instead of costly fuel • Rafah Crossing resumes partial operation.

Electricity and Sewage
It has been 21 days since the Gaza power plant went out of commission due to an ongoing shortage of diesel and disputes about payment for supply. The power plant shut down on the morning of Friday, November 1, and power outages currently span an average of 16 hours per day. Fuel shortages are also impacting sewage pumping facilities in the Gaza Strip, which rely on generators. On November 14, the shortage caused a malfunction in one of the pumps in Gaza City and about 35,000 cubic meters of sewage flooded neighborhoods in the city.

Gaza also has four regional sewage treatment plants. As a result of fuel and electricity shortages, about 95,000 cubic meters of raw sewage that reaches the plants flow into the sea untreated per day.

The electricity deficit in Gaza is 60%, or about 200 megawatts, and residents now rely entirely on electricity purchased from Israel and Egypt. Gaza's demand for electricity is about 350 megawatts and can reach 400 megawatts during peak times.

An iron being heated on the stove. Photo: Lina Al Madhoun

Rafah Crossing
On Tuesday, November 19, Rafah Crossing reopened after being closed for 11 days. The crossing was meant to remain partially open until Thursday, but following a car bombing in Sinai which killed Egyptian soldiers, the crossing was closed for four hours. It is operating today. Individuals meeting the following criteria are permitted to coordinate travel:

• Palestinians traveling into the Gaza Strip
• Students traveling from Gaza to Egypt and third countries
• Medical patients with official referrals from the Palestinian Ministry of Health traveling from Gaza to Egypt
• Individuals with foreign passport and residency status

The number of individuals who are registered to exit Gaza through the crossing, and meet the criteria for travel is about 2,500. From the beginning of November until November 18, the crossing operated for only five days. During this time, 934 entries to Gaza were recorded and 1,918 exits from the Strip.

Charging a laptop with a car battery. Photo: Khaled Al Ashkar for Gisha

According to Palestinian sources, hardly any fuel has come into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels during the past week. Egyptian military forces continue to operate near the border and tunnel activity remains significantly reduced. As a result, the cost of transporting diesel from Egypt has risen. Government authorities have fixed the price of diesel in Gaza at 4 NIS such that tunnel operators absorb the extra costs.

Cooking gas
The shortage of cooking gas continues and has been exacerbated by fuel shortages. Among other things, drivers have recently been using cooking gas as an alternative to costly Israeli gasoline. It is estimated that approximately 25% of the cooking gas on the market is being used for such purposes. The Gas Station Owners’ Association and the Hamas government are making efforts to put a stop to the sale of cooking gas to drivers, but the use of cooking gas as a cheaper, alternative source of energy is becoming more widespread. Some are using it for heating chicken coops, for example.

According to Palestinian sources, Israel has agreed to upgrade infrastructure at Kerem Shalom Crossing in order to facilitate the transfer of larger volumes of cooking gas. However, the work has not yet been completed. The capacity of the pipe used for transferring gas via Kerem Shalom is 22 tons per hour. Ideally, when the gas pipe operates from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, about 187 tons of cooking gas can be brought into Gaza daily through Kerem Shalom. However, daily demand is currently up to 300 tons and Kerem Shalom normally operates only five days per week.

Palestinian sources also noted that Israel has recently expressed its willingness to allow for the installation of a reserve tank for cooking gas on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom Crossing.