Israel preventing reconstruction in Gaza after Cast Lead, rights groups charge

In 56-page report, Gisha calls on Israel to allow entry of industrial diesel, regular diesel, building materials, raw materials, and spare parts.

gaza unrwa rubble 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza unrwa rubble 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
Seven months after the end of Operation Cast Lead, Gaza still lacks sufficient electricity supplies, spare parts, cement for reconstruction, and sufficient water supplies, sanitation and health care for the civilian population, the left-wing rights organization Gisha charged in a report released on Tuesday. According to the 56-page report titled Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gaza's Infrastructure, "Since the end of the Israeli military offensive in Gaza with the ceasefire of January 19, 2009, infrastructure in the Gaza Strip has gradually returned to its 'regular' pre-war state: industrial diesel arrives in limited quantities, there is a chronic shortage of electricity, and the water and sanitation systems teeter on the verge of collapse. The almost total ban on the import of spare parts and building materials, which has been in force for over two years, hinders reconstruction efforts in Gaza, including the repair of the vast majority of damage to infrastructure caused by the recent offensive." Israel's supply of diesel fuel to operate the Gaza power station has returned to the level of 2.2 million liters per week, which Israel considers the minimum amount necessary to fulfill the humanitarian needs of the population. This means that the power station can only provide about 80 megawatts at times of peak demand in the summer and winter, or approximately 33 percent of the Gaza Strip's requirements. Because of Israel's refusal to supply more industrial diesel, Gaza suffers from a 24% electricity deficit, states the report. It goes on to say that Israel has also refused most of the spare parts that the Gaza Strip needs to repair its electricity system, including the generators that provide power for hospitals and water pumping stations when regular electricity is lacking. According to Gisha, Israel has allowed only 11% of the total quantity needed and the rate of power loss due to wear and tear on the system has risen from 27% in December 2008 to 35-40% in June 2009. Some 25,000 spare parts destined for Gaza infrastructure are waiting in Israeli and West Bank warehouses, the report continues. About 10% of the Palestinian population has been cut off from the electricity grid since the fighting began. The water infrastructure, which was badly damaged during the operation, has been partly repaired. Some 500,000 Palestinians lived without running water for weeks during the fighting. Seven months later, 10,000 Palestinians continue to be cut off from water supplies while 100,000 more can access running water once every five to seven days, Gisha claims. Israel has yet to approve almost half of the requests for spare parts to repair the system. According to Gisha, sanitation continues to be a serious problem in the strip. Most of the pumping stations are still not operating at full capacity and tens of millions of liters of raw sewage continue to flow into the Mediterranean. In May, Israel allowed some equipment into the Gaza Strip to implement several urgent sanitation projects. Gisha called on Israel to allow the unimpeded entry of industrial diesel, regular diesel, building materials, raw materials, and spare parts. It also called on Israel to allow experts and consultants into Gaza and allow Palestinian professionals in the infrastructure field to leave Gaza for training abroad.