For fifteen years, the Israeli occupation authorities have denied a regular electricity supply to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The suffocating siege imposed by Israel has left the residents unable to find a simple solution to the electricity problem, which affects all civil society sectors serving Palestinians and their essential institutions.
The Gaza Strip needs 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day, but only gets 200 MW. Of this, 120 MW comes directly from Israel; 20 comes from Egypt; and the rest comes from Gaza's sole remaining power plant operating at greatly reduced capacity due to the lack of fuel and the siege. Israel blew up the power plant 14 years ago, and has prevented its reconstruction ever since. Israel also blocks necessary improvements to the electricity supply system. Vital materials cannot be imported and essential repairs cannot be carried out.
The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip receive electricity for just eight hours, followed by 8 hours of power cuts. In the summer, the supply is sometimes cut off for 12 hours at a time.
It is hard to imagine that families living just a few dozen kilometres from the metropolis of Tel Aviv do not have a regular electricity supply. The power cuts mean that Gaza's residents are unable to use basic electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines and electric ovens, safely; the sick and disabled cannot receive essential treatment and care; and the health and education sectors are unable to function effectively. Essential infrastructure such as the water and sewage networks are also unable to operate normally.
In a world where electricity has become indispensable, frequent and continuous power cuts cause many problems, notably:
- 80 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip spend most of their lives in the dark.
- 32 people, including 25 children, were killed in fires caused by candles or the explosion of electric generators, between 2010 and 2018.
- The work of 39 operating theatres in Gaza's hospitals is curtailed; premature babies are at risk with no electricity for incubators, and the lives of more than 400 dialysis patients are also threatened.
- Untreated sewage is pumped straight into the sea.
- Industry loses up to $40 million per month; its contribution to the GDP has been cut to nine per cent.
Israel cannot shirk its responsibility for this reality; it is the occupying power. It is still the party with a legal duty to control what happens inside the occupied territory, and provide basic essentials for the people living under occupation. It fails to fulfil its responsibilities in this respect, and its ongoing siege and other policies have been described as collective punishment, which is a war crime.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to call for the international community to fulfil its responsibilities towards those under Israeli siege and occupation. Its failure to do so exacerbate the humanitarian and economic crises.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.