Power cuts to Gaza create humanitarian crisis
Posted by raleighfist on January 24, 2008
By David Hoskins
More than 800,000 Palestinians have been living in darkness since Israel forcibly closed the border and blocked fuel shipments into Gaza on Jan. 18, forcing Gaza’s only electrical plant to shut down. The general director of Gaza‘s single electricity plant, Derar Abu Sissi, explained that “the catastrophe will affect hospitals, clinics, water wells, houses, factories, all aspects of life.”
Hospital generators are rapidly running out of fuel. Health Ministry official Moaiya Hassannain exclaimed, “We have the choice to either cut electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients or stop operating rooms.” (Washington Post, Jan. 22)
Israel sealed off all entrances into Gaza last week, shortly after President Bush’s recent trip to the Middle East, and just a week after Bush met with Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert. The blockade was no doubt approved by the Bush administration.
Egypt also shares a border with Gaza. Egypt’s reluctance to reopen its border, however, has led many to speculate that the U.S. knew of Israel’s plans in advance and Bush used his recent trip to bully other countries into cooperation.
The civilian population of Gaza is being punished because they elected Hamas, a group which is militantly anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist, to run Gaza. This type of collective punishment is a flagrant violation of international law and is in specific breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 50 of the Hague regulations, and should be protested by progressive people everywhere.
Israel routinely stages assaults on the Palestinian population to try to break its spirit. Despite the blockade and these assaults, the Palestinian people’s popular resistance against Israel’s occupation of their homeland continues. Palestinians in Gaza continue to fire Qassam rockets into Israel.
Israel has supplemented the blockade with air strikes and other daily assaults on the Gaza strip. Doctor Fawzy Nabulseyah, director of the intensive care unit at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, discussed how the casualties from the air strikes, combined with the severity of fuel shortages, have put the lives of innocent Palestinians in double jeopardy.
“We have 15 patients on breathing machines. If the electricity is cut off they stop working and the patients will die of blood poisoning after about five minutes,” he said. “Most of them were wounded in Israeli operations and air strikes.” (French Press Agency, Jan. 21)
In a separate incident, forty military tanks entered the Jabalya refugee camp to demolish Palestinian homes. Eighty percent of the people living in Gaza are refugees, and the Israeli government appears determined to destroy those homes too.
The blockade of Gaza has sparked international outrage. Christopher Guiness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, warned that international food aid to Gaza may be suspended due to a shortage of fuel and of plastic bags needed to pack food. Guiness pointed out that “The logic of this defies basic humanitarian standards.” The UNRWA provides food necessities to 860,000 Palestinians living in Gaza.
British human rights groups have decried the fuel cutoff as unlawful. On Jan. 26 a humanitarian convoy is scheduled to travel from Israel to the Gaza strip to deliver supplies. The convoy will be headed by human rights groups and was decked out in signs demanding that Israel “Lift the Blockade!” (The American Muslim, Jan. 21)
Demonstrations against the blockade have occurred inside Israel. Many merchants in mostly Palestinian east Jerusalem participated in a one-day solidarity strike to protest the blockade.
Amnesty International has called for an immediate lifting of the blockade. AI Middle East and North Africa program director, Malcolm Smart, in an AI news release, pointed out that “More than 40 seriously ill patients have died since the Israeli authorities closed Gaza’s borders … now the entire Gaza population is being put at risk as electricity and fuel supplies run out. This action appears calculated to make an already dire humanitarian situation worse, one in which the most vulnerable—the sick, the elderly, women and children—will bear the brunt.”