Israeli military turns fuel tap on for Gaza Power Plant – authorizes a large but limited delivery today

The Israeli military has re-opened Nahal Oz fuel transfer terminal on Wednesday, and informed Palestinian authorities that it has instructed the private Israeli company Dor Alon to deliver 1 million liters of industrial diesel fuel needed to operate Gaza’s only power plant, just hours before the plant would have had to shut down without a resupply.

This may be the largest quantity ever transferred at Nahal Oz in one day.  If the delivery takes place as planned, it will allow Gaza’s power plant to operate another three days after today – or until Sunday night.

At that point, without a further fuel delivery, the power plant will again face shut-down.

This is no way to operate a vital public utility, on which human lives depend.

The absolutely most critical needs for electricity are in Gaza’s hospitals, and for removal of Gaza’s waste-water, which could otherwise back up and cause life-threatening floods.

But, the Israeli military has been making absolutely crucial decisions that affect Gaza’s electricity supply without any oversight or accountability.

The Ministry of Defense is carrying out the mandate conferred by the Israeli cabinet on 19 September, when the government declared that the Gaza Strip was an “enemy entity”, or “hostile territory”, because of firing of projectiles from Gaza onto Israeli territory, which still continues.

The Israeli Defense Minister’s publicly-stated strategy is to permit “no luxuries” into Gaza, and to provide the bare minimum necessary to sustain life – while saying at the same time it will not intentionally allow its calibrated sanctions to collapse the situation into a complete “humanitarian crisis”, a highly risky strategy.

The Israeli High Court of Justice (Supreme Court) declined to intervene in fuel cuts that began on 28 October and are still in effect today – with different restrictions placed on different categories of fuel for different purposes.   On 27 January, the Supreme Court ruled that the fuel cuts – and separate cuts in directly-supplied electricity – were “legal”, as long as the military ensured they would not create a “humanitarian crisis”.

There are apparently quite various appreciations of exactly what that means.

In addition, if there is no intention to create a humanitarian crisis – and here, it has been stated many times over that the intention is not to create a humanitarian crisis – its legality could very well continue to be upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Israeli military said that the hold-up in deliveries this week was due to continued problems with Palestinian firing at the crossing – an issue they said they were working on.

Officially, the Gaza power plant has been maintained at the original Phase I level of some 2.2 million liters of fuel a week.  However, last week, just 1.2 million liters of industrial diesel was delivered last Wednesday afternoon and Thursday.  This week, only 1 million liters has been promised.

Cooking gas was allowed in last week.  But regular diesel fuel (used to operate stand-by generators and some vehicles) and gasoline (for cars) has not been allowed into Gaza for many days.  Most cars are no longer running – and those that are, have been converted to use either cooking gas or cooking oil

The Israeli public holiday of Passover will officially end next Sunday, when fuel shipments could – at least theoretically – be resumed.

But, attacks on Israel, or on the border crossings with Gaza, could disrupt any delivery plans.

The Israeli human rights organization Gisha, which led a group of ten Israeli and Palestinian organizations trying to block the fuel cuts and separate cuts in directly-supplied Israel electricity (which seem to have been rescinded), was prepared to go back to the Court today if the deliveries had not been resumed.

Gisha’s Sari Bashi sent an urgent letter to the State Attorney’s office on Tuesday urging that industrial diesel fuel should be delivered to the Gaza power plant in time to prevent its imminent shut-down – by Wednesday evening.

Bashi said Wednesday morning that she is still waiting for some more answers from the State Attorney concerning the Israeli Military’s instructions regarding the non-industrial (or regular) diesel fuel.

Even United Nations operations are now being badly adversely affected by the fuel deliveries, and relief agencies say they may be unable to carry out their mandates in the coming days.

The last time the Gaza power plant had to shut down because of lack of fuel was on 20 January.  On 22 January, after an international outcry, the Israeli military ordered the fuel shipments to resume.  On 23 January, Gazans broke down the barrier at the Rafah crossing, and hundreds of thousands of people streamed across the border to peacefully go shopping, and then peacefully returned home.

The Israeli military-imposed sanctions affecting Gaza have only been tightened since then.

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