Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Israel's "Relief" to Continue hurting Palestinians

This report is from "Gisha," (Hebrew for "access" and "approach"), an Israeli not-for-profit organization, founded in 2005, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law. It is one of the plaintiffs in a suit before the Israeli Supreme Court challenging the fuel cuts to gaza.

Israel's "Relief":
Fuel Cuts of Up to 81%
New Electricity Cuts Beginning
February 7

Monday, January 28, 2008: After more than a week of near-total ban on fuel supplies, Israel said yesterday that it would resume permitting Gaza residents to purchase fuel – but would limit the amount they could buy by as much as 81% and would cut the electricity supplied directly to Gaza beginning February 7.

The state made the announcement in advance of yesterday's hearing in Israel's Supreme Court, as part of its response to a court petition filed by 10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups challenging punitive cuts in fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza residents. The court has yet to issue a decision.

After almost totally blocking fuel supply last week, Israel through the State Attorney's Office told the court it would resume permitting Gaza residents to purchase diesel, petrol (gasoline) and industrial diesel but would only allow them a small percentage of what they need. The State Attorney's office also told the court that it would reduce the electricity that Israel's Electric Company sells directly to Gaza by 5% on three lines (a total of 1.5 MW), beginning February 7.

At the hearing, the human rights groups, represented by Gisha and Adalah, asked for an order preventing the state from restricting supply. The rights groups claim that the fuel and electricity cuts constitute illegal collective punishment.

The shortage of industrial diesel has crippled the functioning of Gaza's power plant, whose reserves ran out on Jan. 5. Since then, the plant reduced production and even shut down for two days. Currently, the power plant is producing 45 MW electricity – instead of the 80 MW it could produce, were it allowed enough industrial diesel.

Gaza currently has an electricity deficit of 24%, and rolling blackouts across the Strip are as long as 12 hours per day in some areas. The electricity shortage has increased the dependence on diesel-powered generators – just as Israel cut diesel supplies. Without electricity and without diesel for back-up generators, Gaza's sewage treatment pumps and treatment plants are pumping as much as 40 million liters untreated sewage into the sea each day, and clean water supply has fallen by 30%. Hospitals have reduced services and denied care to non-urgent cases, as the power outages continue, and their fuel supplies run dangerously low.

According to Gisha's Director, Sari Bashi: "Israel's 'relief' is just further punishment. Israel continues to deny Gaza residents the fuel and electricity they need to power hospitals, pump sewage, access clean water, and heat their homes. Israel has a right to defend itself against Qassam rocket fire targeting its civilians. But further cuts to Gaza's electricity, as Israel plans, will only make more innocent people suffer."

Facts about Israel's fuel cuts to Gaza:

Israel began instituting fuel cuts to Gaza on October 28, 2007, as part of a governmental decision calling for punitive measures against Gaza's 1.5 million residents. The new levels of fuel announced yesterday are significantly lower than the quantities being purchased by Gaza residents prior to the Oct. 28, 2007 cuts – and significantly lower than what they need now.

*The Palestinian Struggle never seems to end. Read on

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