Israeli electricity and fuel clampdown on Gaza condemned by church and aid groups

By staff writers
September 23, 2007

An Israeli government plan to suspend electricity and fuel to Gaza’s civilian population will severely impact local people’s health and wellbeing, harming peace and security in the area, church and development organisations say.

Israel’s security cabinet has decided to declare the Gaza Strip a 'hostile entity' in response to continuing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on targets within Israel, including a recent attack on an army training camp north of Gaza, which left dozens of Israeli soldiers injured.

The unanimous vote means Israel can also further limit the movement of goods through crossings and completely halt the movement of people.

The Israeli government has stated the intention of the plan is to prevent power being used in metal workshops that manufacture rockets which are then fired into Israel and said Gaza’s hospitals would continue to be supplied with fuel for generators.

But these actions will affect power supplies to all businesses, homes, schools and other vital services. Border crossings will only allow in basic food and medical supplies and no-one will be able to leave or enter Gaza.

Israel says it will not disrupt Gaza’s water supply as part of the plans but much of Gaza relies on electricity to pump its water supplies.

Ahmed Sourani of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) said people in Gaza were very worried about what would happen in the coming days.

'If Israel cuts the electricity and fuel supply to Gaza it will have severe impacts on people’s health and wellbeing,' he said.

'Without electricity 90 per cent of Gaza will go without water as most people live in tower blocks and depend on electricity to pump the water. Without fuel supplies the municipalities will not be able to operate substitute generators for the main pumps.

'Another concern is that it will disrupt the sewage pumping system potentially leading to flooding – this would pose severe health and environment hazards.

People are also worried about food supplies and those who can have started to dry and store food as refrigerators won’t work in case electricity is cut.’

After the bombing of Gaza’s power station by the Israelis in 2006 Christian Aid partners had to distribute water tanks to communities left without fresh drinking water.

UK-based international development agency Christian Aid says it deplores attacks on civilians and affirms Israel’s right to defend itself from attack but the humanitarian consequences of cutting these vital services to Gaza will be severe.

The economy of this narrow strip of land between Egypt and Israel is already on the brink of collapse and virtually isolated from the outside world: 87 per cent of Gaza’s population currently live below the poverty line.

Christian Aid partners in Israel also condemned the decision. B’tselem said: ‘The implementation of the decision will collectively punish 1.5 million people, in breach of Israel's obligations under international law.’

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions called on the world’s religious leaders to 'condemn this blatant violation of human rights.'

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