Those who speak up for power-less Gaza

June 22, 2017
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) +972: Israelis release paper lanterns in solidarity with blacked-out Gaza, Eli Bitan on the Israeli support;
2) Gisha: Coalition of 16 civil society organizations in an urgent letter to Israel’s attorney general;
3) Ma’an: Gaza planning demonstrations as Israel further cuts power supply;
4) IMEMC: Gaza Power Crisis: Immediate Action Needed says UN Expert;

Israeli activists release paper lanterns in solidarity with blacked-out Gaza, Ashkelon beach, June 19, 2017. Photo by Haidi Motola/

Israelis release paper lanterns in solidarity with blacked-out Gaza

As the Israeli government begins implementing a decision to reduce the already insufficient electricity supply in Gaza, to just three hours a day, activists just across the border send a little symbolic light their way.

By Eli Bitan, +972
June 19, 2017

After Israel announced that it had begun reducing the already insufficient electricity supply to Gaza on Monday, dozens of Israeli activists released 150 paper lanterns at Ashkelon beach, just north of the Strip, in solidarity with the residents of the besieged territory. Among the activists were Israeli residents who live in the towns surrounding Gaza, who joined the action to protest the potential humanitarian catastrophe on the other side of the fence.

The Israeli government announcement that it had begun reducing the electricity it sells to the Gaza Strip ostensibly fulfilled a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said he was stopping to pay for the power Israel supplies to Gaza. The cuts would leave Gaza with around three hours of electricity a day.

A Palestinian woman washes dishes by candlelight during a power outage in a makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, June 12, 2017. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

According to Gisha [see below], an Israeli legal NGO that focuses on Gaza, Israel has for years been selling 120 megawatts to Gaza — supplied through 10 power lines — with each line carrying 12 megawatts. On Monday morning, Israel cut supply on two lines from 12 to eight megawatts. Meanwhile, Israel continues to severely limit the import of generators and spare parts needed for their repair to Gaza, as well as import of transformers and equipment.

Last Wednesday [June 14], a coalition of 16 civil society organizations sent an urgent letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, emphasizing the unlawfulness of the cabinet decision to cut Gaza’s power supply under both Israeli and international law. The attorney general has yet to respond, and it is unknown whether there will be further reductions to the electricity supply.

Israeli activists write “Gaza” in the sand with paper lanterns during a protest in solidarity with the residents of Gaza, Ashkelon beach, June 19, 2017. Photo by Haidi Motola/

This past week, over 3,200 activists called on defence minister Avigdor Lieberman to prevent an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip. Maayan Dak, campaign manager for Zazim, the Israeli NGO behind Monday night’s action, told Local Call:

“It has been nearly three years since the last war, and Israel is still preventing replacement parts for Gaza’s power station, which it bombed in 2014, from entering the Strip. Millions of people are living with four hours of electricity a day, at best. We cannot let this continue.”

Eli Bitan is a journalist in the ultra-Orthodox press in Israel, and is a blogger on Local Call, where this post was first published in Hebrew.

Coalition of 16 civil society organizations in an urgent letter to Israel’s attorney general: “Advise the Security Cabinet to immediately rescind its decision to reduce electricity supply to Gaza”

From Gisha
June 14, 2017

A group of civil society organizations – Gisha, Adalah, HaMoked: Centre for the Defence of the Individual, The Association for Civil Rights In Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Zazim, Bimkom, Yesh Din, Amnesty International Israel, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Haqel, Akevot, Ir Amim, Peace Now, and Rabbis for Human Rights – sent an urgent letter today to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, demanding that he advise the members of the Security Cabinet to immediately rescind the cabinet’s decision to reduce the supply of electricity sold and provided by Israel to the Gaza Strip.

Before the cabinet convened on Sunday, Gisha sent an urgent letter to Minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman, warning against an impending humanitarian crisis in Gaza should Israel decrease current electricity supply to the Strip. The next day, it was reported that the cabinet had decided to “respond to the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas” and reduce the supply of electricity to the Strip, despite warnings from senior military officials, who said that further deterioration of the electricity crisis could lead to an escalation in hostilities.

In the letter to the attorney general, the organizations emphasize the illegality of the cabinet’s decision under both Israeli and international law: In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a judgment that set the minimal threshold for Israel’s responsibilities towards residents of Gaza, stemming from the extent of Israel’s control over the crossings between Israel and Gaza, and in light of the state of armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. Regarding the issue of electricity, the Supreme Court ruled that years of Israeli military rule in the area had created an all but total dependence of Gaza on electricity supplied by Israel, and that Israel must allow for the entrance of goods needed to meet the humanitarian needs of the civilian population.

In the time that has elapsed since the court’s decision, the dependence of Gaza residents on electricity supply from Israel has not declined, and despite the increase in population and the fact that demand for electricity has almost doubled since, Israel never augmented the meagre supply of 120 megawatts, which it sells to the Strip. In addition, Israel continues to control the crossings to the Strip and enforces severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel has total control over entrance of construction materials and spare parts needed for repair, maintenance and development of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. To this day, Israel greatly restricts, and in many case denies altogether, the entrance of equipment needed by residents to help them cope with constant power shortages, such as generators and their spare parts, batteries, and uninterrupted power supply components, because they are considered to be “dual-use” items (items that have an inherent civilian use, but Israel claims can be used for military purposes).

The organizations further emphasize that the cabinet’s decision is unrelated to concrete security needs and is rather political in nature. The decision therefore violates international humanitarian law, according to which the rights of civilian population can only be harmed in the presence of an immediate military necessity (and even then, the damage caused must be proportionate). “The harm to Israelis and Palestinians, and to the region as a whole, from an escalation in hostilities, is far greater than any benefit (political or otherwise) that may be gleaned from the implementation of the decision.”

As stated in the letter, the organizations recognize the collective responsibility of the international community, Israel, and authorities in Gaza, Ramallah and Egypt, but reiterate Israel’s considerable accountability for the situation:

“Israel cannot claim to be only a service provider, responding neutrally to a client’s request. Given its extensive control over life in the Strip, Israel is responsible for enabling normal life for its residents, as an occupying force in the Strip. Israel is obligated to find solutions that will allow for the continued supply of electricity at existing capacity, and to take active steps toward increasing supply to allow residents, whose taxes are collected by Israel, access to acceptable living conditions.”

Gaza planning demonstrations as Israel further cuts power supply

By Ma’an news
June 20, 2017

GAZA CITY — Residents of the besieged Gaza Strip were planning demonstrations on Tuesday to denounce Israel’s recent reduction of power supply to the blockaded coastal enclave.

Israel started to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza on Monday at the request of the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), despite being urged by humanitarian organizations not to implement the decision.

As a result, Gazans who had previously had electricity access for four hours a day saw their supply reduced by eight megawatts, providing only two to three hours of electricity on Monday, as the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) announced on Monday that it would further reduce the output of Israeli grids providing power to Gaza over coming days.Israeli NGO Gisha said that Monday’s cuts reduced electricity supply by 6.7 percent.

On Tuesday, Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation spokesman Muhammad Thabet told Ma’an that IEC reduced the power supply by 12 additional megawatts.

Tuesday’s reduction affected two grids — one known as the Sea Line which feeds the northern Gaza Strip, and one known as the Dome Line which feeds Gaza City — with each line’s output reduced by six megawatts.

The demonstrations are scheduled to take place at around 4:30 p.m. following afternoon prayers, along the borderline between Gaza and Israel, near Gaza City, al-Bureij refugee camp, and Rafah, spokesman for Gaza’s national movement against the siege Mahmoud al-Ayla told Ma’an.

Al-Ayla accused Israel of imposing “collective punishment on Gaza residents.”

Israel announced the decision to cut supplies last week, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA would no longer pay the full amount of the monthly electricity bill, as both Israel and the PA have accused Hamas of collecting millions of shekels in taxes from Gazans every month without transferring the money to the PA.

Gaza, which marked its 10th year under Israeli blockade last week, has struggled for years with power shortages due to limited fuel access and degraded infrastructure.

A group of 16 civil society organizations urged the Israeli attorney general on Wednesday to reconsider limiting electricity output to Gaza, slamming the decision as “unrelated to concrete security needs” and “political in nature,” therefore in violation of international law.

No response was ever received, Gisha said in a statementon Monday after the initial cuts were made to the electricity supply.

“To make matters worse, Israel continues to severely limit entrance of generators and spare parts needed for their repair to Gaza, as well as entrance of transformers and equipment needed to repair an electricity network nearing collapse….Despite the warnings, the Security Cabinet’s disastrous decision was partially implemented today.”

the group said at the time, before the announcement of further cuts were made.

“Once again we must caution: by reducing electricity supply to Gaza, Israel is knowingly aggravating an already dangerous situation in which the Strip is teetering on the verge of a humanitarian crisis — and with implications for Israeli citizens as well. …The consequences of a reduction in supply are likely to be devastating… “

Gisha wrote, and described the already dire situation in Gaza:

water desalination and sewage treatment facilities are not operational; some 100 million litres of untreated or partially treated sewage are being dumped mostly at sea daily; generators are over-extended; entire hospital wards are shut down during blackouts, and people who rely on life-saving equipment are at risk. All of this is expected to get even worse….Israel must immediately cancel reductions to electricity supply to Gaza and work instead to increase supply.”

While UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper characterized the ever-worsening crisis inGaza as “an internal Palestinian dispute” on Wednesday, rights groups have placed the bulk of the blame on the Israeli siege.

Israeli NGO B’Tselem blamed the blockade for putting Gaza “in the throes of a humanitarian disaster,” adding that Israel was “consigning (Gaza’s) residents to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.”

Gaza Power Crisis: Immediate Action Needed says UN Expert

By IMEMC News & Agencies
June 16, 2017

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating to unprecedented levels as new reductions in the already extremely limited power supply have been announced, a United Nations expert has warned.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said the situation was “extremely distressing” and getting worse with every passing week.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories

“All the parties with a direct hand in the crisis – Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – must act immediately with the best interests of the population in Gaza in mind to resolve this human-made problem,” the expert said, according to the PNN.

“I call on them to put aside their differences, live up to their legal and political obligations, and to ensure that electricity needs are fully met, with immediate critical infrastructure requirements addressed,” he said. “This unprecedented reduction of power is increasing the already intolerable levels of misery being endured by Gazans, particularly for the poor and vulnerable.”

The power plant, which provides 30% of Gaza’s electricity, has been inoperative since mid-April, partly because of a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over the payment of fuel taxes. Some extra power has been provided by Egypt and Israel, but Mr. Lynk said this was extremely limited, either because of insufficient infrastructure or for political reasons.

“This entirely avoidable power crisis has had significant repercussions for people in Gaza”

He also noted that the plant was badly damaged by Israeli military action in 2014, and that Israel had restricted the importation of replacement parts.

“This entirely avoidable power crisis has had significant repercussions for people living in Gaza,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“The health sector is able to provide only the absolute minimum standard of care – hospitals are being forced to cancel some operations, are cutting back on maintenance, and are dependent on the United Nations for emergency fuel to run their generators

“Raw sewage cannot be treated and is pouring into the Mediterranean. Desalination plants are functioning at one-seventh of their capacity, and drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce”.

The Special Rapporteur warned that almost every aspect of daily life was now being affected.

“For the vast majority of Gazans, the power crisis intensifies the already serious humanitarian crisis,” he said. “There is a severe impact on sanitation, food preservation, cooking, and the use of computers and telephones.

“The cost of food is dramatically rising. Irrigation for farming is restricted. Manufacturing companies are closing or reducing their production hours. Unemployment – already the highest in the world at 40% – is increasing.”

Mr. Lynk said the problems were compounding the already-degraded living conditions in the territory.

“Even before these current hardships, Gaza has endured a decade-long blockade and closure imposed by Israel, with the economy collapsing and poverty and unemployment rates soaring,” he said. “This new energy crisis has made a very bad situation much worse.”

Beyond resolving the immediate power supply crisis, Mr. Lynk also called for an end to Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza, with security guarantees for both Israelis and Palestinians. He said,

“Keeping Gaza economically crippled and socially isolated is a recipe for humanitarian distress and another conflict in the near futureThe rights of all people to freedom and security must be respected in order to achieve peace.”

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