Israel/OPT: Gaza power crisis has compounded blocade’s assault on human dignity

Children play in streets flooded with raw sewage in al-Zaytoun, south of Gaza City, after the shutdown. 1December 2013

Israel must immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, including by allowing the deli ery of fuel and other essential supplies into the territory without restrictions, said !mnesty International today. "or the last month, all of Gaza#s $.% million residents ha e been li ing without power for most of the time and in the shadow of a public health catastrophe, after their sole power plant was forced to shut down, causing the failure of se eral sewerage and water plants. “&his latest harsh setback has e'acerbated the assault on the dignity of (alestinians in Gaza and the massi e denial of rights they ha e e'perienced for more than si' years because of Israel#s blockade, together with restrictions imposed by )gypt,* said (hilip +uther, ,iddle )ast and -orth !frica .irector at !mnesty International. “&he blockade has collecti ely punished Gaza#s population in iolation of international law. &he power plant shutdown has further affected all aspects of daily life, and the Israeli authorities must lift the blockade immediately, starting by allowing urgently needed fuel supplies into the Strip and working with all rele ant parties to a ert a prolonged humanitarian crisis this winter.*

&he power plant, which until recently supplied /0 per cent of the Gaza Strip#s electricity, ran out of diesel fuel on $ -o ember. &he resulting shutdown has e'acerbated an ongoing water and sanitation crisis and has left Gaza residents without power for $1 hours a day. !ccording to the 2- 3ffice for the Coordination of 4umanitarian !ffairs, all 56$ water and wastewater facilities in the Gaza Strip are now relying on standby generators, which are also affected by the fuel shortages. 3n $/ -o ember a large sewage pumping station failed in al-Zaytoun, south of Gaza City, allowing more than /7,000 cubic metres of raw sewage to spew into the streets. +ocal authorities ha e struggled to clean up the spill, lea ing some /,000 residents wading through sewage. &he clean-up finally began on 56 -o ember, according to local residents, following efforts by the 2nited -ations 8elief and 9orks !gency for (alestine 8efugees in the -ear )ast :2-89!; and other agencies, and an emergency donation from &urkey to pay for fuel for critical sewage stations. “&he reason for the flood of sewage was the blockade,* a resident of al-Zaytoun told !mnesty International. <&he =uestion is, why is the blockade being allowed to continue> 9hat is our crime> &here is no ?ustification for this situation. 9e ?ust want to li e like any other people in the world.* &en other sewage pumping stations in the Gaza Strip ha e been forced to di ert sewage to open channels, lagoons, or the sea during the last month, and other stations are close to o erflowing. @efore the current crisis, some 60 million litres of raw or partially treated sewage were being dumped into the sea off Gaza e ery day. Since the power plant shutdown, more raw sewage is being dumped into the sea. "or years, more than 60 per cent of the water e'tracted from the Gaza a=uifer has been polluted and unfit for human consumption due to the infiltration of sewage and seawater and prolonged o ere'traction because of Israel#s disproportionate use of water resources. 9ater supply to households across the Strip, which was already rationed, has also been reduced since the power plant shutdown. Some 17 per cent of Gaza#s population only recei e water once e ery three or four days. “"or each day that the Gaza power plant does not recei e fuel, the risk of a massi e public health crisis increases. !ccess to ade=uate sanitation and drinking water are fundamental human rights. &he power plant shutdown should ne er ha e been allowed to happen,* said (hilip +uther. 4ospitals and other health facilities throughout the Gaza Strip ha e been relying on their own generators during the lengthy power outages. @ut the generators are also

affected by fuel shortages, ?eopardizing essential ser ices like kidney dialysis, operating theatres, blood banks, intensi e care units, neo-natal care, and laboratories, putting patients# li es at risk. @usinesses, construction, and much agricultural work ha e also ground to a halt amid the power cuts and shortages of fuel and building materials. &his has further reduced the incomes of many households who already had trouble meeting their basic needs. @akeries ha e reduced production and people are forced to =ueue to buy bread. &ransportation throughout the Strip has been curtailedA carts pulled by donkeys are now being used to collect solid waste. &he Strip#s schools and uni ersities ha e also been affected. Since Bune 500%, when the Israeli blockade was tightened, Gaza#s energy, water, and sanitation infrastructure has been inade=uate to fulfil the basic rights of its inhabitants. &hey were already poor due to prior Israeli restrictions and decades of neglect. @efore the power plant shut down, Gaza already suffered from a chronic electricity shortage and routine power outages. Since $ -o ember, the electricity currently supplied to the Strip C which is purchased from Israel and )gypt C co ers less than D0 per cent of the population#s needs. ! main factor triggering the shutdown was the )gyptian military#s campaign to destroy tunnels between Gaza and Sinai C more than 60 per cent ha e been remo ed since Bune 50$/. Since early 50$$, the power plant was run on )gyptian diesel brought in through some of those tunnels C the amount dropped from about $ million litres per day in Bune 50$/ to around 50,000 litres per week in -o ember. !mnesty International is calling on the )gyptian authorities to facilitate construction of new power lines to increase the electricity supply to the southern Gaza Strip and work with (alestinian and Israeli authorities to find a sustainable solution to the fuel crisis. @ackground 3n 5E Bune 5001, Israeli aircraft fired eight missiles into the Gaza power plant, destroying all its transformers. Israeli restrictions on imports of construction materials, spare parts, and fuel impeded reconstruction. &hese restrictions were tightened after Israel imposed a complete air, land and sea blockade on Gaza in Bune 500%, when 4amas established a de facto administration in the Strip. !s the occupying power, Israel has the primary responsibility for addressing the current crisis by immediately increasing fuel supplies to Gaza. It must also address the long-term crisis by completely lifting the blockade, including by allowing fuel into Gaza without restrictions, allowing construction materials and e=uipment necessary for repairing and maintaining ital infrastructure, and increasing electricity supplies to

Gaza by facilitating the construction of new power lines. Continuing disputes between the 4amas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip and the (alestinian !uthority o er payment and ta'es are also a factor in the current crisis. @oth authorities must co-operate so that the power plant again recei es a steady supply of fuel and can resume operations. !ccording to the 2-#s 3ffice for the Coordination of 4umanitarian !ffairs, only about a =uarter of the water and sanitation pro?ects in Gaza included in the 50$/ Consolidated !ppeals (rocess ha e been funded.

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