In June 2007, following hostilities between Fatah and Hamas, the latter took control of the Gaza Strip, starting a divide between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) and the de-facto Hamas authorities in Gaza, which still continues.
On 19 June, the Israeli electricity company began reducing its electricity supply to the Gaza Strip, extending blackouts in certain areas from 19-20 to 20-21 hours a day.
Following the decision of the Palestinian government in Ramallah to reduce its monthly payments to Israel for its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip, on 11 June the Israeli cabinet approved a 30 per cent cut in that supply. If implemented, electricity will be reduced to about two hours per day, down from four hours currently, placing essential services at risk of collapse. In mid-April, Gaza’s sole power plant, which previously provided about one third of Gaza’s electricity, shut down after a dispute between the Ramallah and Gaza authorities over the taxation of fuel and revenue collection.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, warned today about the disastrous consequences of a further reduction in electricity-supply to the Gaza Strip on the living conditions of two million Palestinians. He called upon the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel to put the welfare of Gaza’s residents first and to take the necessary measures to avoid further suffering. The UN has already appealed to the international community to support its limited humanitarian efforts to prevent the collapse of vital life-saving, health, water, sanitation and municipal services.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.9 million Palestinians in that area. Many of the current restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade.
This week marks 50 years since the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. For humanitarians this is the most long-standing protection crisis in the UN’s history.
The Gaza electricity crisis deepened, with Palestinian authorities in Ramallah reportedly announcing a cut in funding for electricity delivered from Israel. If implemented, this would further extend the existing scheduled power cuts of 18-20 to over 22 hours a day. In the meantime, the Gaza Power Plant, which shut down on 16 April after exhausting its fuel reserves, has remained closed. The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that at least a third of surgeries are now being postponed, due to the worsening electricity crisis and the growing shortage of medical supplies. Also, Gaza is expected to suffer a lack of necessary food items, combined with a stark rise in some food prices during the upcoming summer season, due to lack of power and/or fuel for irrigation. The situation continues to undermine the delivery of essential services, which are operating at minimal levels and rely primarily on backup generators.
This is the sixth year in which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has detailed the key humanitarian concerns in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The purpose of the report is to provide a trend analysis of some of the key indicators underlying humanitarian vulnerabilities in the oPt in a given year.
2016 figures indicate fewer fatalities amidst heightened West Bank displacement. As the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation approaches, OCHA’s 2016 Annual Report for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), underscores that occupation policies and practices remain the key cause of humanitarian needs in the oPt. The internal Palestinian political divide is also a serious contributing factor.
The humanitarian vulnerability of Gaza’s population has been exacerbated by recent developments, which deepened the internal Palestinian divide, ongoing since the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas in 2007. In March 2017, Hamas established a parallel institution to run local ministries in Gaza, a step seen as a direct challenge to the Palestinian government in Ramallah. In April, the Palestinian government reduced payments to thousands of public employees in the Gaza Strip. Subsequently, the failure to resolve a longstanding dispute between the two Palestinian authorities on issues related to tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers, resulted in Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) being forced to shut down completely. Compounded by a halt in the electricity supply from Egypt due to malfunctioning lines, this has triggered electricity blackouts of 20-22 hours a day.