November 23, 2007
Regarding the fuel cuts:
- On Sunday, October 28, Israel's military ordered the private fuel company, Dor Alon, to provide 15% - 20% less fuel than the quantity ordered for Gaza residents.Gaza residents purchase fuel from Dor Alon via an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and the fuel is transferred through Nahal Oz, on the Gaza-Israel border. Israel does not permit fuel to enter Gaza via the sea, the airspace, or the border with Egypt.
- Essential services, including purifying and pumping drinking water, treating sewage, operating garbage collection trucks and ambulances, and operating the generators that power hospitals and other public buildings depend on fuel and the electricity generated by fuel.
- According to the deputy director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), in the month of October 2007, the CMWU had a deficit of 40,000 liters of fuel, needed to power generators that provide drinking water to homes and pump sewage away from residential areas. Without sufficient fuel to power the generators, the CMWU has been forced to close wells that provide drinking water to tens of thousands of people. See the affidavit of the deputy director of Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, submitted to Israel's Supreme Court on Nov. 6, 2007.
- Updated information indicates that since fuel supplies have been cut, every day, on a rotating basis, 50,000 residents are not receiving clean water to their homes because there is not enough fuel to operate the generators that help power Gaza's water wells.
- In total, because of difficulties getting spare parts through the crossings controlled by Israel, the fuel deficits, and other systemic problems, 250,000 people in Gaza are not receiving an adequate amount of drinking water.
- The fuel cuts also prevent the European Union from providing industrial diesel to power Gaza's electrical power plant. For details, see Gisha's letter to European Union officials.
Regarding the electricity cuts:
- Gaza residents purchase approximately 63% of their electricity from Israel, primarily through tax moneys collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. An additional 28% is produced locally, and 9% comes from Egypt.
- Israel's claim that it can cut electricity without harming hospitals and other vital services is inconsistent with the facts on the ground. In Gaza, main lines of electricity serve hospitals, water wells, pumping stations, treatment plants, schools, pharmacies, and local clinics, as well as ordinary homes and buildings, without differentiation. As a result, when power is cut to the main lines, ensuing electricity outages also impact essential public services.
- Since Israel bombed Gaza's power plant in June 2006, Gaza has suffered a deficit of electricity (currently about 18%), causing the distribution company to institute rolling blackouts. Those blackouts already affect hospitals and other vital services. Further decreases in electricity supply will further prevent hospitals from conducting operations, water and sewage pumps from operating, waste treatment plants from conducting basic sanitation, and ordinary residents from preserving perishable foodstuffs and operating home medical devices.
Israel cannot control or monitor the extent of the damage. In a November 19, 2007 submission to Israel's Supreme Court, the Israeli military based its claim that the cuts do not harm vital services on speculative arithmetic, using data from 2005, showing that in theory, there is enough fuel in Gaza to power essential humanitarian services. In doing so, the military is ignoring distribution problems and mounting evidence that the additional pressure on Gaza's fragile public services is already harming the health and well-being of Gaza residents.
Cuts in power and electricity, by definition, harm Gaza residents. In this case, they are presented by Israel as a response to the firing of Qassam rockets by militants inside Gaza.
Firing Qassam rockets on civilian targets in Israel is illegal, and it must stop. But it does not justify deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza in response.
International law forbids any kind of collective punishment, regardless of its severity. This is a moral and legal red line.
Israel controls the borders of Gaza – land, air, and sea – and does not permit supplies to enter Gaza through any border but its own border with Gaza. Restricting the supply of humanitarian relief violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Additional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which require all parties to facilitate the provision of humanitarian relief and especially require an occupying power to take active, positive steps to facilitate the proper functioning of Gaza's civilian institutions. For a more detailed discussion of the legal prohibition on punitive measures against Gaza residents, see this correspondence between Gisha's executive director Sari Bashi and former New York mayor Ed Koch. See also Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza.
The decision to cut fuel and electricity and to restrict the movement of goods in and out of Gaza stems from Israel's September 19, 2007 Cabinet decision authorizing punitive measures against Gaza residents. It is a dangerous intervention into Gaza's already-fragile humanitarian systems.
Gisha calls upon Israel immediately to cancel the fuel cuts, to refrain from implementing electricity cuts, and to open Gaza's borders for the regular and sufficient supply of goods, including spare parts and other supplies necessary to ensure the health and well-being of Gaza residents.