UN warns against sanctions on Gaza

UN: Cuts in energy, fuel from Gaza Strip could create severe hardships and humanitarian crisis.

September 30, 2007 22:40
2 minute read.
UN warns against sanctions on Gaza

gaza blackout 224.88. (photo credit: AP [file])


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The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned Sunday that if Israel carries out its threatened sanctions after declaring Gaza "hostile territory," it would likely create a humanitarian crisis. "In the past three months, 106 cargo trucks were allowed into the Gaza Strip per workday," the organization wrote in a paper issued in response to Israel's September 19 announcement of a change in policy towards Gaza in response to the continued shelling of western Negev communities. "This assured the prevention of a humanitarian crisis among the Gaza population. The continuation of this situation cannot be guaranteed if there is an additional deterioration regarding the restrictions at the Gaza border crossings," the paper said. OCHA pointed out that until Hamas took over full control of the Gaza Strip in June, some 238 cargo trucks had crossed into Gaza each day. But less than 10 percent of the goods allowed into Gaza today come from humanitarian aid. Some 86% of the cargo trucks carry commercial goods. Even though humanitarian aid is likely to continue in the face of Israeli sanctions, the Gaza population is largely dependent on commercial imports for its sustenance. OCHA also examined the impact of threatened cuts of energy and fuel on the Gaza population. Gaza is dependent on Israel, in one form or another, for 91% of its energy. The Israel Electric Corporation directly supplies 62.5% of Gaza energy. Another 28.6% comes in the form of fuel, paid for by the European Community but provided by the Dor Alon oil company, delivered to the local Gaza electricity company. According to OCHA, Gaza has almost no oil reserves of its own. "The scarcity will be felt in 48 hours," the report said. It pointed out that when the EU suspended payment for fuel for three days, and Gaza was dependent on Israeli and Egyptian energy, it could only supply 71% of normal consumption. This led to power outages lasting up to 12 hours, which disrupted the water pumps and caused water shortages, particularly in multi-storied apartment buildings in Gaza City. When Israel knocked out power turbines in July 2006, elevators stopped working, food spoiled, and it was hard to maintain hygiene. Should Israel cut the power, Gaza will have to use generators to work the water pumps. But this is only a short-term solution, since the generators are only meant to be used in emergencies and cannot cope with long hours of operation. Prolonged use will cause deterioration of parts which, because of the almost total closure of the Karni Crossing, will not be able to be replaced. It will also double the consumption of oil consumed to pump the water. There are 12 public hospitals in Gaza, all of which have emergency generators in case of a power failure. The hospitals will face the same problems. During the three days that the EU refused to supply Gaza with fuel, the hospitals had to use their generators 12 hours a day and consume 8,000 liters of oil to run them. In order to save costs, the hospitals stopped using air conditioners in most units. Many first-line clinics had to shut down because they did not have generators. OCHA warned that if Israel implements the measures, it could be guilty of collective punishment. "The suggested measures could constitute a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law," the organization warned.

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