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EC has "limited resources" to pay for fuel for Gaza

The European Commission's decision last month to stop buying diesel for Gaza's only power station means that the beleaguered territory will soon have no central power source for everyday activities. According to Rafeeq Maliha, director of the Gaza power station, without the intervention of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the densely populated territory will be deprived of basic services that require a substantial amount of electricity.

The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) has been in touch with the European Commission's Technical Assistance Office in the West Bank and Gaza, which is in charge of the financial support, to get more details on the reason for this withdrawal of funding. Amongst other things, the European Commission said that because of its "limited resources" officials have decided to focus on other sectors such as contribution towards the salaries of civil servants.

There have also been technical issues which allegedly have prevented the EC from purchasing fuel. In contrast to other EC humanitarian/development programmes, there is "no tax exemption when it comes to purchasing fuel", and 40% of taxes and excise go back to the PA in the form of cleared revenues. Furthermore, the Gaza power station is unable to function properly in any case due to the siege imposed on Gaza and the closed border between Israel and Gaza.


The EC has provided fuel for the Gaza power plant for the past three and a half years and will continue to audit and monitor the station. Officials claim that from March 2010 onwards, they are planning a study on the construction of a gas pipeline between Gaza and Egypt. However, it is debatable whether this proposal will go ahead, especially with Egypt's construction of an "impenetrable" steel wall between Rafah and Gaza.

The EC claims that it has not abandoned Gaza and that it will still contribute to the reparation of damages incurred by private businesses during Israel's military offensive on the territory in 2008-2009. However, officials also state that it is unlikely that the PA will be able to cover these costs and will as a result be unable to finance regular deliveries of fuel.

Meanwhile, MEMO has received a copy of a letter addressed to Baroness Catherine Ashton (High Representative for Foreign Affairs Security Policy) and Foreign Secretary David Miliband, signed by prominent politicians, lawyers and human rights organisations. The letter expresses the distress and concern at the shift in funding, which will leave the inhabitants in Gaza without electricity from this weekend onwards.

Electricity Crisis Gaza MEMO would like to stress the gravity of the situation. The power plant has been bombed by Israel many times, notably during the Israeli aggression of 2008-2009. Furthermore, the Israeli blockade has prohibited the import of spare parts and material to repair the damage inflicted by Israel. The European Commission should not under any circumstances be complicit with Israel's illegal blockade and what appears to be a significant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely wilfully causing great suffering and/or serious injury to the body or health of Gaza's civilian population.

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MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad

Baroness Catherine Ashton
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
European Union
Brussels

RE: EU's decision to cease the purchase of fuel for Gaza's only functioning Power plant

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound distress and concern with the European Union's (EU) decision to discontinue the purchase of diesel fuel for the only functioning power plant in the Occupied Gaza Strip. As a consequence, the plant would be forced to halt operations this weekend.

After almost four years of a devastating blockade which has left hundreds dead and denies medical access to thousands, we consider this policy highly irresponsible and inhuman.

Accordingly, we appeal to you in your capacity as head of EU foreign policy to take immediate steps to reverse this decision and above all end the siege of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the territory. Under no circumstances should the EU be complicit in Israel's illegal blockade – a clear act of "collective punishment" and what appears to be a significant grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely wilfully causing great suffering and/or serious injury to the body or health of Gaza's citizens.

Thank you

Frank Barat, Russel Tribunal on Palestine

Lauren Booth, Journalist and Broadcaster

Rochelle Harris, Chair of the Human Rights Legal Aid Fund

Daniel Machover, Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Oliver McTernan, Forward Thinking

Lord Nazir Ahmed

Sarah Mc Sherry, partner at Christian Khan Solicitors

Baroness Jenny Tonge


Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Foreign Secretary
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH


RE: EU's decision to cease the purchase of fuel for Gaza's only functioning Power plant

Dear Foreign Secretary,

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound distress and concern with the European Union's (EU) decision to discontinue the purchase of diesel fuel for the only functioning power plant in the Occupied Gaza Strip. As a consequence, the plant would be forced to halt operations this weekend.

After four years of blockade which has left hundreds dead and denies medical access to thousands, we regard this policy highly irresponsible and inhuman.

Accordingly, we urge you in your capacity as Foreign Secretary to impress upon the EU to take immediate steps to reverse this decision and above all end the siege of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the territory. Under no circumstances should Britain and the EU be complicit in Israel's illegal blockade – a clear act of "collective punishment" and what appears to be a significant grave breach (war crime) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, namely wilfully causing great suffering and/or serious injury to the body or health of Gaza's citizens.

Thank you

Frank Barat, Russel Tribunal on Palestine

Lauren Booth, Journalist and Broadcaster

Rochelle Harris, Chair of the Human Rights Legal Aid Fund

Daniel Machover, Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Oliver McTernan, Forward Thinking

Lord Nazir Ahmed

Sarah Mc Sherry, partner at Christian Khan Solicitors

Baroness Jenny Tonge

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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