Background: What the state needs to explain about Gaza fuel cuts

Some of the problems with the electricity supply to Gaza had to do with faulty and aging equipment.

gaza power station 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
gaza power station 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
In its decision last week giving the state 12 days to answer four questions about its plan to reduce electricity in the Gaza Strip, the High Court of Justice did not expressly order the state to postpone its intention to implement the cuts on December 2. Essentially, however, it was being no more than polite when it wrote, "We assume that until we receive the necessary clarifications and additional information, the plan to limit the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip will not go into effect." What is the additional information that the court has asked for from the state? During last Thursday's hearing, the state asked two Israeli officials to address the court. The first was Col. Shlomi Mukhtar, who serves in the office of the Coordinator of Activities in the West Bank and Gaza. The second was Idan Weinstock, head of the Electricity Authority in the National Infrastructures Ministry. Mukhtar told the court he had recently met with the deputy head of the Energy Authority in the Gaza Strip and other Palestinian officials and they had discussed Israel's plan to reduce the electricity it supplies by 5 percent. Some of the problems with the electricity supply to Gaza had to do with faulty and aging equipment and lines on the Palestinian side, Mukhtar told the court. These problems had nothing to do with the amount of power being supplied, he added. He also said the Palestinian official had informed him that Egypt would soon be providing Gaza with an eighth power turbine to make up for one destroyed by the Israel Air Force in bombing attacks in June 2006. Weinstock told the court it was possible to channel electricity to certain targets along one power line, and not to others. For example, despite the power outages that the Hamas government currently imposes from time to time, Shifa Hospital in Gaza City had never been without electricity. The court asked the state to provide more details regarding the information provided by Mukhtar and Weinstock. What did the deputy head of the Gaza Energy Authority tell Mukhtar during their meeting and what did he say about the humanitarian situation in Gaza? What impact will the additional turbine to be supplied by Egypt have on the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip? Regarding Weinstock's claim that electricity can be channeled to specific targets, the court asked the state to present the infrastructure of the electricity supply in Gaza to prove that it can be channeled to certain targets and withheld from others. The state informed the court that it had decided to cut electricity from only four of the 10 power lines in the Gaza Strip. The court wanted to know where these lines were located and what kind of buildings and functions they served. The state was asked to specify which buildings serving vital needs were fed by these lines. The decision handed down by the court last week was an interim decision rather than a ruling, even though it handed down a final ruling on one of the two subjects of the petition. The petition, filed by two Palestinians and 10 human rights groups, had asked the court to overturn the state's decision to cut fuel and electricity supplies as well as electricity supplies. In its interim decision, the court handed down its final word regarding the fuel cuts, stating that it upheld the decision to cut these supplies by some 15%. However, the court will formally hand down a final ruling on this matter after it makes up its mind regarding the petition to block the state from cutting electricity supplies. The decision is at least several weeks away.