Palestinians walk past trucks loaded with gravel at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip December 30, 2012..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s ban on Gaza goods has preventing the opening of the largest solar field in the Strip, which otherwise could have become operational this week, sources told The Jerusalem Post.
The field was constructed with funding from the European Union. It is designed to “provide 0.5 Megawatts of electricity per day to fuel the Southern Gaza Desalinization Plant.”
Some 75,000 residents of Khan Younis and the Rafah receive drinking water from the plant
, which is only partially operational.
It will eventually be able to provide water for 250,000 people in southern Gaza.
Projects like the EU funded solar field are designed to help provide electricity for the plant, but this new field is lacking the cables and other parts necessary to be hooked up to the electricity grid.
Last month Israel banned all commercial goods from entering and leaving Gaza to protest Hamas violence against Israel. This includes building materials for infrastructure projects such as the solar field.
Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: "Limited energy supplies in Gaza are one of the main challenges when improving access to safe and drinkable water to the local population. The photovoltaic solar field is essential to respond to the urgent water needs in Gaza and create dignified living conditions for its people, thus mitigating tensions in a highly conflict sensitive area.”
The international community, including the EU, has focused in the last year on helping provide clean drinking water for the two million people that live in Gaza. According to the EU, 97% of the Gaza water is “unfit for human consumption.”
At the start of the week, however, Israel did make an exception to the ban and allowed in “six truckloads of humanitarian equipment into the Gaza Strip for USAID water projects,” according to the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
It added that this did not reflect a change in policy with regard to Gaza.
On Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman imposed a ban on the entry of fuel and gas into Gaza
until such time as Palestinians in Gaza stop launching flaming balloons and kites into Israel.
Those incendiary objects have burned thousands of acres of forests and fields in southern Israel.
Liberman had imposed a similar ban last month and then lifted it, after the violence dropped.
Egypt and the United Nations are working behind the scenes to broker an agreement to restore calm and improve economic assistance to Gaza.
Some 4,000 Palestinian construction workers in Gaza have been temporarily laid off since Israel imposed a commercial ban on Gaza, the UN reported on Thursday.
It added that the last fuel and gas ban from July 16-24 had forced the Gaza Power Plan to briefly shut down. The Gaza Power plant resumed partial operation on July 26, the UN said.
There are only three crossings into Gaza, two of which are controlled by Israel. This includes the main commercial crossing at Kerem Shalom and the pedestrian crossing at Erez. The third crossing is between Egypt and Gaza at Rafah, which is mostly for pedestrians. A limited amount of goods have also entered through that crossing, but it is not designed to handle a large capacity of goods.
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