UNRWA: Israel must resume fuel shipments so power plant in Gaza can open

UNRWA noted that according to international humanitarian law, the passage of “relief consignments” such as fuel should not be prevented.

A fuel tanker leaves the Gaza power plant in the central Gaza Strip August 26, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
A fuel tanker leaves the Gaza power plant in the central Gaza Strip August 26, 2019
The United Nations has asked Israel to prevent a COVID-19 pandemic health crisis by renewing its shipments of fuel to Gaza, so that the enclave’s sole power plant can open and generate needed electricity for medical treatment, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Tuesday.
“Yesterday, after hearing the news of the new COVID-19 cases in Gaza, the UN asked Israel to reinstate the delivery of Qatari-funded fuel for the Strip in order to help prevent a major health crisis,” Mladenov told the UN Security Council during its monthly meeting on the Middle East, which was held virtually.
Since the start of the pandemic, the only COVID-19 patients in Gaza have been found among those Palestinians who were checked upon entering Gaza and placed in isolation.
The recent diagnosis of five COVID-19 patients outside of those quarantine centers marks the first time since the start of the pandemic that the virus has been detected within the regular Palestinian population in Gaza.
Its presence has renewed fear of what a COVID-19 outbreak could mean in Gaza, particularly given that its impoverished healthcare system is not geared to handle a large number of cases.
The report of the COVID-19 cases comes among escalating tension between Israel and Gaza. Palestinians have launched incendiary balloons and rockets at Israel and the IDF has been conducting nightly retaliatory raids.
Israel last week halted the flow of commercial goods into Gaza, as well as fuel, to protest the Palestinian violence and also closed the Mediterranean to Gaza fisherman.
There are three passageways into Gaza, one from Egypt and two from Israel: a commercial crossing at Kerem Shalom and a pedestrian one at Erez.
Most of Gaza’s goods, including the fuel, comes through Kerem Shalom.
The fuel is particularly important because it is used to generate electricity. Its absence has caused the Gaza power plant to shut down.
Earlier in the day, the UN Relief and Works Agency also urged Israel to resume the fuel shipments.
“The closure of the power plant has caused the power feed to decline to two to three hours per day, followed by 20 hours of interruption,” UNRWA said. “Such poor power feed will negatively impact the well-being and safety of the people of Gaza.”
“It will also have devastating effects on Gaza’s vital services, including hospitals, thus putting the lives and health of nearly two million people, including 1.4 million registered Palestine refugees, at risk,” it added.
“We are calling on all concerned parties to maintain a supply of electricity that is sufficient to meet the basic needs of the civilian population,” Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza Matthias Schmale said.
At the UNSC, Mladenov warned, “Gaza is teetering on the brink of another major escalation with Israel, the occupied West Bank is fracturing under a multitude of economic and political pressures, settlement expansion and demolitions continue, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on Palestinian and Israeli societies.”
“This is the stark reality of the current situation,” Mladenov said. “Without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regional peace will not be complete.”