Israel announced on Tuesday, June 25, its decision to immediately begin halting the transfer of fuel used to operate the sole power plant in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) tweeted that fuel supply to the power plant in Gaza would be stopped “following the launching of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel…until further notice.”
In response to Tuesday’s announcement, the Palestinian Energy Authority and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said that the fuel then currently available in the power plant’s storage tanks was only sufficient for operating the plant’s turbines until Tuesday evening, after which the plant would be forced to cease operations.
As a result of Israel’s measure, the supply of electricity to Gaza residents declined dramatically on the same day.
As of the latest report (Thursday, June 27) the third day of the fuel blockage, only two of the three turbines in the plant were working, relying on fuel requisitioned from the private sector in Gaza, in an effort to avoid the plant’s total shutdown. Capacity to meet the estimated 100% needs of 500 megawatts for Gaza dropped precipitously by nearly 2/3 of this to 165 megawatts, meaning that electric power is being supplied for 5-6 hours followed by 12-hour blackouts.
As is widely known, Gaza suffers from an acute, chronic shortage of electricity, impacting power supply to homes, hospitals, factories, and basic civilian infrastructure. In recent months and up until Tuesday morning of last week, three of the turbines at Gaza’s power plant were running on fuel purchased from Israel using funds donated by Qatar and transferred to the Strip under United Nations’ supervision from Israel via Kerem Shalom Crossing, allowing the plant to produce a total of about 75 megawatts of power. Added to 120 megawatts sold to Gaza by Israel and supplied through direct power lines, the overall electricity supply available to residents would reach eight consecutive hours of electricity at most, followed by at least eight hours of outages, in rolling blackouts. As indicated above, as a result of Israel’s blocking of fuel deliveries since June 25, even this supply is currently reduced by an additional 2-3 hours of outages per 16 hours.
Gisha – The Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement – sent an urgent letter on Tuesday to Israel’s Minister of Defense, Benjamin Netanyahu, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and the COGAT, Brig. Gen. (res.) Kamil Abu Rokon, calling for the decision to be reversed immediately. Among the points this letter elucidates are:
- Israel’s decision to deliberately reduce the supply of a basic humanitarian commodity, knowingly harming the civilian population in Gaza, constitutes illegal collective punishment.
- There is no justification for the decision to stop fuel supply to Gaza’s power plant. Israel must reverse this wrongful and illegal measure immediately and renew transfer of fuel to the Strip.