Israel cuts fuel, Gaza goes dark

Smoke rises after an Israeli airstriked in Gaza City on November 13, 2019. - Israel's military killed a commander from Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip, triggering exchanges of fire in a violent escalation that left another nine Gazans dead. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  August  20, 2020

The Gaza Strip’s only power plant shut down on Tuesday after Israel stopped the transfer of fuel to the territory.

The halting of fuel transfers is among a series of collective punishment measures Israel has imposed on Gaza.

Israel has claimed the measures are a response to incendiary balloons released from Gaza. The launching of such balloons by some Palestinians is, in reality, a symbolic effort to draw attention to the deteriorating situation in Gaza, long subject to an Israeli siege.

Although incendiary balloons caused several fires in Israel, “no injuries or damage have been reported,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

Israel has also bombed Gaza on an almost a daily basis over the past week.

Two million Palestinians in Gaza have been under a lethal Israeli siege for the past 13 years. Israel subjects the territory to bombing whenever its people resist or protest collective punishment measures.

It is a vicious cycle that only Israel can stop.

The availability of electricity in Gaza stood at about 10 to 11 hours before further restrictions. It is expected to drop over the next several days to four consecutive hours per day, followed by 14 to 16 hour cuts.

Hospitals and factories

The Israeli human rights group Gisha warned that hospitals, schools, workshops and quarantine facilities will all be impacted by fuel cuts.

While most hospitals in the Strip are supplied with 24-hour electricity through the main power plant, Gisha says it is unclear if that will be sustained.

Gaza’s health ministry warned that power outages at hospitals would “have serious repercussions on the lives of premature babies in nurseries and intensive care and kidney failure patients.”

Israel’s fuel ban will also affect factories in Gaza, where the economy has already been all but destroyed by 13 years of blockade and repeated military assaults.

The head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions said that factories and workshops are expected to operate at less than 20 percent capacity by relying on generators.

Quarantine facilities in Gaza, which are currently housing some 2,000 people, will also have no more than four hours a day of electricity.

Israel announced on Sunday that it would entirely prohibit fishers from sailing off Gaza’s coast, having already imposed tightened restrictions last week.

Gaza’s fishing industry is crucial to its economy, with tens of thousands of Palestinians dependent on it.

Last week, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, the sole point of transfer for commercial goods in and out of Gaza, for all but the transfer of “vital humanitarian aid.”

Bombing school

Since the beginning of August, Israeli warplanes have bombarded the Gaza Strip with air strikes on agricultural land and what Israel claims are Hamas posts.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesperson for Hamas, which runs Gaza’s internal affairs, assigned Israeli occupation forces “the full responsibility” for the “results and repercussions” of the tightening of the siege and cutting of the fuel.

Last week, Israeli warplanes struck a school in Gaza City run by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, causing damage and disrupting school activities.

“How can a school surrounded by three UN schools and a UN health center and considerable distance to known military sites be hit by accident?” Matthias Schmale, who heads the agency in Gaza, asked on Twitter.

Students were evacuated from the school, and police teams are working to remove remnants of the missile from campus, according to Al-Mezan, a human rights group based in the territory.

Israel’s constant restrictions and bombardment constitutes collective punishment, Gisha said on Tuesday. Collective punishment is a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore a war crime.

“Israel must immediately reverse these illegal measures of collective punishment and stop deliberately violating the fundamental human rights of Gaza’s residents,” Gisha stated.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza has turned it into a sealed ghetto.

While insisting that it “disengaged” from Gaza in 2005, Israel still controls the maritime, aerospace and land borders of the coastal enclave.

While always cruel, the effects of Israel’s actions are even worse during a pandemic.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada