Whose fault is it?

A colleague called me today as he was leaving Erez “terminal”, just coming out of Gaza after two days there.

The situation of the people who don’t have any electricity, or any fuel, is terrible, he said.

He asked, “Whose fault do you think it is”?

[He said he is leaning toward blaming Hamas…]

But, there is enough blame to go around…

Where to start?

The European Union was paying for the special industrial diesel fuel used to run the Gaza Power Plant once it was repaired in November 2006 [precision Israeli Air Force bombing took out each of the four generators/turbines, one by one, in late June 2006, in response to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, and the EU paid for repairs that were done through Egypt].

The way it worked is important to understanding the situation: Gaza would tell the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah how much fuel it needed. Ramallah would order the fuel from an Israeli fuel company [Dor Alon] with whom Ramallah had concluded a contract. Fuel transfer facilities were constructed at Nahal Oz — Dor Alon paid for the installation on the Israeli side of the facility, and the PA paid for the installation on the Gaza side. Israeli tankers came one by one to offload their fuel cargoes into underground pipes which transferred the fuel into Gaza where it was loaded into Palestinian tanker trucks for delivery around the Gaza Strip.

VAT taxes paid on these fuel purchases by the PA were returned by Israel to the PA in Ramallah.

These arrangements continued after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian preventive security services in mid-June 2007.

(1) Because Hamas was in power there, Israel’s military was authorized to implement tightening sanctions against Gaza, starting in late October 2007. These military sanctions were designed to cut the fuel deliveries to Gaza by about 15% each month. Gaza’s Power Plant experienced shut-downs from January, due to Israeli-military-mandated cuts in fuel delivered to Gaza.

(2) About four years later [at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011], there was a switch of responsibilities that was never fully explained, in which the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority took over from the EU the payment for the fuel, in exchange for the EU paying for salaries and pensions… There soon arose disputes over payments. Ramallah said that Gaza was not remitting enough in payments for electric bills, so they cut down on the fuel they ordered and paid for. More shut-downs in Gaza’s Power Plant ensued. VAT

(3) Gaza decided to stop going along with this arrangement, and its dependency on Ramallah’s good will, and turned instead to taking fuel for the Gaza Power Plant smuggled in via the tunnels under the border with Rafah. At around the same time, a clever tweak — invented by Gaza Power Plant Engineer Dirar Abu Sisi [later kidapped in Ukraine, where he was trying to emigrate with his Ukranian wife and their children, and brought to Israel, where he is still in jail] — allowed the Gaza Power Plant to use normal diesel fuel to operate. There were considerable cost savings. Taxes for the import of fuel went to Hamas.

(4) Israel gradually closes all cargo transport into Gaza via all crossings except Kerem Shalom — where Israeli customs officials operate. This move was opposed by the PA. Israel delayed the move, but eventually did it.

(5) Egypt, under pressure, decides to reduce the fuel transfers through the tunnels.

(6) Hamas hopes to persuade Egypt to deliver fuel through Rafah crossing — preferably via tankers crossing into Gaza — though there is no provision for cargo transfer via Rafah in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. Israel prefers fuel to come from Egypt via Kerem Shalom. There are negotiations and talks and more talks. Gaza’s Power Plant shuts down three times in recent weeks due to fuel shortage — including after an exceptional one-time transfer last Friday of 450,000 liters of fuel bought from Israel and paid by the PA. This quantity of fuel lasted for just over a day, and the Gaza Power Plant shut down again on Sunday.

During these talks and negotiations, it was reported here that “The [Gaza] cabinet also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, saying it has instructed the European Union to stop funding the power station in Gaza for political reasons. The Gaza government said it had turned to Egypt to relieve the current fuel crisis and thanked Cairo for its efforts, adding that it was also in contact with Qatar, Algeria and Turkey to ease shortages”.

An equivalent or greater amount of energy was put into mutual recriminations. Haaretz reported on 20 March here that Iran paid Hamas to block a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas [which might have eased the fuel crisis]:

      Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said: “We have information that Iran paid tens of millions of dollars to Zahar and Haniyeh in their visits to Iran”. [He was referring to Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar who visited Tehran last week and Ismail Haniyeh who was there in February. Assaf was responding to a comment by Zahar that Palestinian political reconciliation “is in the freezer now”, despite a unity deal signed last month.


      “Reconciliation is in the freezer because Zahar was the one who put it there and he got the price from Iran,” Assaf told Reuters. “Zahar, Haniyeh and Hamas’s Gaza leadership were paid by Iran to freeze reconciliation.”


      Hamas rejected the charges. “The Fatah government did not implement any of their obligations (under the unity deal) and they prefer American money to nationalist agreements,” spokesman Taher al-Nono said.


      “Iran has an interest in the division continuing. Iran realizes the importance of the Palestinian cause from the religious, political and geographic status and, therefore, it wants to control it,” Assaf said.
    If unity was restored and the Palestine Liberation Organization or any legitimate leadership ruled Gaza, Iran would lose its influence, he said.

(7) Emergency talks and negotiations ensue on Monday. On Tuesday, there is an announcement in Cairo of a deal with Egypt, made by the Gaza head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Energy Authority. But, this deal involves the transfer of Egyptian gas through Rafah to Gaza [not fuel]. This deal is reported by Ma’an News Agency, here.

Here are comments I Tweeted [@marianhouk] yesterday on this announced deal:

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza Power Plant, constructed to run either on indust. diesel or gas, will now be converted to use gas [provided initially by Egypt].

27 Mar @Marianhouk
The World Bank recommended in 2007 that the Gaza Power Plant switching to using gas as fuel, ultimately cheaper then indust. diesel

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas will come from Egypt [initially] by terms of agreement signed today in Cairo by Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority – http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=471644

27 Mar @Marianhouk
How fast can this happen? “technicians in Gaza will prepare to install a 30-km pipeline from Rafah to the power plant in Gaza City” via Maan

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas cld come to Gaza Power Plant from Palestinian Gaza Marine undersea gas fields in Med, if reconciliation [or if offshore island built]

27 Mar @Marianhouk
“Egy technicians have been instructed 2 conduct geograph surveys 2 find best route for pipelines 2 transport gas from Sheikh Zweid 2 Rafah”

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority in Ramallah in Cairo: “the new agreement will increase the plant’s capacity from 40 to 180 Megawatts”. When?

27 Mar @Marianhouk
However, vulnerability of Sinai pipelines will be an issue in new decision signed today to supply Egyptian gas to fuel Gaza Power Plant…

A concise explantion of why the Gaza Power Plant shut down again today, causing significant electrical shortages in central Gaza

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR] in Gaza has offered a concise explanation of the complete and unconscionable mess that has been made in a complicated situation that resulted in today’s shut-down, once again, of the only power plant in Gaza, which supplies one-third of the electricity needed by some 1.5 million souls in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely-populated areas on earth, which has in effect become a large open-air holding pen.

But first, some essential background:

The Gaza Power Plant was constructed in the optimistic years of the Oslo process.

Hamas pulled off a surprise victory in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Fatah was furious. As punishment for the pro-Hamas vote, almost all aid was cut off to the Palestinian Authority [in both the West Bank and Gaza] by the large international donors, particularly but not exclusively those represented in the Quartet [the U.S., Russian Federation, the EU + the UN, which is not a donor but when it works on the ground is mainly an implementing body]

During this donor cut-off, for some 18 months, Palestinian Authority [PA] employees were paid no salaries, and relied on bank loans arranged by the PA but on which the employees had to pay interest.

In the midst of that turmoil and hardship, in late June 2006, the Gaza Power Plant was bombed by the Israeli Air Force, in reprisal for a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants on the Kerem Shalom area [just outside the southeastern corner of the Gaza Strip, where the borders of Egypt’s Sinai, Israel’s Negev Desert, and the Gaza Strip all meet], during which IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was seized and taken into Gaza, [where he was held prisoner until his release in a prisoner exchange with Hamas brokered by Egypt in 2011].

For the six sweltering summer months of 2006, there was very limited electricity in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has supplied some 20 percent of the daily need in Gaza through 11 feeder lines at the northern and western perimeter of the Gaza Strip. Egypt now supplies 17% cross border from Egyptian Rafah to Gazan Rafah [the city of Rafah is divided into two], up from 11 percent earlier.

The Gaza Power Plant was not repaired until November 2006.

It then began to supply most of the balance of energy needed, to the central Gazan Strip area, where Gaza City is located, and where some 500,000 of the inhabitants of Gaza live. At the time that the Gaza Power Plant came back on line in late 2006, the European Union began to pay subsidies of some 10 million dollars a month or so needed to import from Israel [via Nahal Oz] the industrial diesel fuel needed to run the reconstructed Gaza Power Plant.

The PA ordered the fuel supplies for Gaza from Israel, the sole supplier, and the EU paid for them…

Continue reading A concise explantion of why the Gaza Power Plant shut down again today, causing significant electrical shortages in central Gaza

Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Despite all the denials that he is not and was not ever a member of Hamas, and was nothing more than a simple electrical power plant engineer, the Gaza Plant’s Power Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi — who was abducted from a train in the Ukraine on 18-19 February and flown to Israel within hours in the custody of Israeli Mossad agents — was indicted today on shockingly serious charges of developing missiles to fire at Israel.

The indictment was filed Monday, as had been predicted last week, and in a Beersheva court. Abu Sisi has been held for a month in Ashkelon’s Shikma Prison, apparently after nearly two weeks of interrogation by Israel’s General Security Services (GSS or Shin Bet or Shabak) near Petach Tikva.

Haaretz reported today that “Ukraine says Abu Sisi’s disappearance is under investigation. Israel has not provided details on how the Palestinian came into its custody, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week it was a ‘legal arrest’.” This report is posted here. The Haaretz report notes that Hamas has said that Abu Sisi is not a member of the organization — which is banned in Israel as a terrorist organization.

Continue reading Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Israeli Court orders Gaza Power Plant's Abu Sisi to stay in jail seven more days

Haarez’s Yossi Melman reported tonight that a Petah Tikvah court judge has ordered that Gaza Power Plant’s Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi, to remain in jail another seven days (at least) — at the request of the Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet – responsible for intelligence about internal security in Israel) and the Israeli Police.

Melman wrote that “The extension of Abu Sisi’s remand was made possible after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein granted the security service special permission to issue the request. Weinstein’s permission is necessary in any case of a request to extend the remand beyond 30 days”.

Melman added: “At the request of the Shin Bet security service and the State Prosecutor’s Office, a comprehensive gag order was issued at the time of Abu Sisi’s arrest, around a month ago. About 10 days ago the order was modified to permit the publication in Israel of details already reported in the foreign media”. Melman’s report in Haaretz can be read in full here.

The gag order was modified by the Petah Tikvah court in response to a petition from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Abu Sisi was in Ukraine since 18 January in connection with his application for citizenship, filed by his wife, a Ukranian citizen. A month later, he was grabbed while on a train to Kiev, and flown to Israel by men he said identified themselves as agents of Mossad, Israel’s external spy service, He told an Israeli lawyer representing the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) that he was denied access to a lawyer for his first 14 days in Israel, and then for another 11 days.

No charges have yet been filed against Abu Sisi.

UPDATE: Richard Silverstein, who broke the story about Abu Sisi’s kidnapping/extradition from Ukraine to Israel, wrote here that Abu Sisi’s attorney, Smardar Ben Natan, told him that “The state came today with a request to extend the detention in additional 8 days, this was supported by an approval of the senior state attorney, Shay Nitzan, and with the explanation that the prosecution went through the evidence material and asked for 8 additional actions in order to complete the investigation. We argued that if the state does not have enough evidence after 34 days of interrogation, where they should have had evidence to justify the outrageous arrest even before [it occurred], Derar should be released and returned to Ukraine. They were trying to justify the arrest by making him confess [to their] accusations. The court allowed the detention until next Thursday. Derar looked very tired and complained that he can’t stand it anymore and that they are just repeating the same questions over and over again, and trying to break him”.

Silverstein himself asks: “So let’s say Dirar is the worst you can conceive. If you want to kidnap him and render him to Israel wouldn’t you have a case against him before doing so? In what kind of legal system do you arrest someone before having such a case built, and then attempt to figure out what to charge him with based on what he tells you during interrogation? And let’s say he tells you something new you didn’t know during interrogation. Surely, you can file a basic charge and then amplify it with what you learn later. The fact that they have refused to file any charge at all is outrageous. The fact that they come and demand an extension is equally outrageous”.

In a later post, here, Silverstein adds: “It’s unusual in the Israeli legal system for a security suspect to be held longer than 30 days without filing charges. They’ve had Abusisi for 34 days. After that amount of time they still have eight areas in which the top government lawyer says he needs better evidence to prosecute. What’s wrong with this picture? The attorney general has also told Shabak that there is a wide gap between the claims levelled against the kidnapped Gaza engineer and the evidence he’s seen. This does not sound like a happy prosecutor”.

UPDATE: Ben Natan, the attorney for Abu Sisi, told CNN that “I hope that he will be released after these eight days. I expect that after these days, the prosecution might present an indictment. We plan to argue against the future indictment saying that the circumstances of this person’s arrest give him the defense of abusive process,” his lawyer added.

She also told CNN that Abu Sisi “is very exhausted after what he has been through. He sees the interrogation as meant to break his spirit and make him confess things that he did not commit. He was not part of Hamas leadership. He was holding a civil position in the power plant of the Gaza strip and this interrogation is trying to portray him as something that he is not”.

The CNN report, published here, added that “just why the Palestinian engineer was being held and what charges the Israeli government intends to bring against him remain unclear. So far, not even his lawyers have been granted access to the results of his interrogation, they say. ‘We know about the suspicions only generally. The material from the interrogation is still not being disclosed to us and there is a gag order over that, too’, Ben-Natan said after the Gazan engineer appeared in court on Thursday…His lawyer also argued that should it emerge that Israeli intelligence abducted Abu Sisi from the Ukraine, they will have many questions to answer to as their acts will have been in contradiction of international law and treaties between the Ukraine and Israel. ‘There is an extradition convention between the Ukraine and Israel. The European extradition convention applies and both states are party to it and the procedure which was going on in this case was contrary to that convention and to international law’, said Ben-Natan”.

Court today: Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi will be held two more days

The Petah Tikva Court that last week ordered a partial lifting of the gag order that prohibited publication in Israel of news about the imprisonment — in Israel — of Gaza Power Plant’s Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi, ordered today that he be held for (at least) another two days.

The hearing was closed to the media, according to Israel’s YNet news website.

Abu Sisi was reportedly grabbed while travelling on a train in the Ukraine on 18-19 February and subsequently transferred in Mossad custody and in in rather short order to Israel.

YNet reported here that Abu Sisi’s two lawyers, Smadar Ben-Natan and Tal Linoi, Dirar Abu Sisi’s attorneys “claim he is in poor physical and mental condition, but is cooperating with investigators”, and they said “the engineer told them that he was forcibly removed from his train compartment and brought handcuffed and hooded to an apartment. He said at least six Israeli agents interrogated him before flying him to Israel”.

The YNet report added that “much of the remaining details surrounding the case remain under a gag order”.

Abu Sisi has not yet been charged with anything, though he has been held by force, at first partially incommunicado for some two weeks, under constant lengthy interrogations. He has been in Shikma Prison in Ashkelon for almost two weeks, and may have been in a Shin Bet facility near Petah Tikva for the first two weeks he has been in Israel.

UPDATE: Jonathan Cook has reported that “One of his Israeli lawyers, Smadar Ben Nathan, who met him for the first time at the court hearing on Sunday to lift the gag order, said she believed Israel had carried out the operation based on false information. She called the abduction a ‘miscalculation’, saying interrogators had dropped their original line of questioning. She said the gag order meant she could not discuss the case further”.

Cook added that “Ben Nathan said her client had lost a great deal of weight and his health was deteriorating after more than a month incommunicado. His family is concerned that he is being tortured. Although the Mossad is suspected of carrying out many assassinations on foreign soil — including a hit on a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al Mabhouh, in a Dubai hotel last year — there are few examples of it seizing individuals in foreign countries to bring them to trial. Ben Nathan said she could identify only two similar cases: Israeli agents captured the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, and smuggled Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear whisteblower, out of Italy in 1986. Victor Kattan, an international law expert at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, said Israel had broken several human rights laws in seizing him rather than invoking treaty agreements between the Ukraine and Israel and requesting his extradition”. This article can be read in full here, or here.

PCHR lawyer sees Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi in Ashkelon Prison

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported today that a PCHR-retained lawyer met Derar Abu Sisi, the kidnapped Gaza Power Plant’s Director of Operations, yesterday for the first time in an Israeli prison in Ashkelon.

The PCHR said that Abu Sisi was kidnapped by Israel’s national intelligence agency, Mossad, on 18 or 19 February, while he was in the Ukraine — where his Ukrainian wife was applying for citizenship on his behalf. He was then brought to Israel.

This kidnapping, or rendition, is especially strange because AbuSisi apparently intended to leave Gaza anyway.

Abu Sisi told the PCHR lawyer that three men (two in uniform) grabbed him on train in he was taking to Kiev in Ukraine. He was bundled into a car and driven, handcuffed and hooded, to Kiev, where he was taken to an apartment and questioned by six more men who introduced themselves as Mossad.

In short order, Abu Sisi told PCHR’s lawyer, he was “put on a flight” that he said lasted 4 to 5 hours, then transferred to another 1-hour flight — and when it landed, he was told he was in Israel.

The PCHR account of its conversation with Abu Sisi is published on its website, here.

According to PCHR, “Abu Sisi told the PCHR lawyer that he was denied contact with a lawyer for fourteen days. This denial was extended for another eleven days. He said that he was placed under intensive interrogations and that he was denied his legal rights. It should be noted that the Israeli security authorities imposed a media blackout regarding the kidnapping of Abu Sisi and prevented lawyers from visiting him to check on his health and provide legal assistance during the second period … PCHR has concerns over the deterioration of Abu Sisi’s health and notes that he has cholelithiasis and he takes blood thinning medicines. He is experiencing serious psychological problems after going into long and continued investigation session”.

Eyad (Iyad) Alami, Director of PCHR’s Legal Aid Unit, reached Monday evening in Gaza by phone, said that an Israeli lawyer had gone to Askelon Prison on PCHR’s behalf (he noted that Abu Sisi might have seen other lawyers previously). Alami said he could not add anything at this time beyond what was contained in the PCHR statement — other than to say that Abu Sisi had not yet been charged with anything, and could now either be charged or released. In any case, Alami said, PCHR will be following the case.

The Israeli media reported yesterday that a court order had partly removed a gag order banning publication of information on this case. The remainder of the gag order remains for another 30 days…

UPDATE: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was the Israeli human rights organization which went to court to get the gag order lifted. Ronit Sela, ACRI spokesperson, said that their petition was filed on 9 March, some 13 days before the Judge ordered the partial lifting of the gag order — but, she noted, the Judge’s order does not even mention Dirar Abu Sisi by name, but instead refers to him only as “the suspect”. Sela said that ACRI has not been in touch with Abu Sisi personally, and that the appeal to the court is a principled action ACRI takes whenever it learns of a gag order, to ensure that a person does not simply disappear. A former reporter herself, Sela says that journalists usually become aware of gag orders only by the absence of mention in the Israeli press about something or someone (this would necessarily also involve some kind of tip, or tip-off). “I’ve been at ACRI for three years, and in that time we’ve handled at least four cases”, Sela said…

Continue reading PCHR lawyer sees Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi in Ashkelon Prison

No fuel delivered to Gaza on Tuesday

Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak announced on Monday that he would authorize resumption of Israeli transfers of the industrial diesel fuel needed to operate Gaza’s power plant – on Wednesday.

In the statement, Barak said that he would only allow the transfer of this type of industrial diesel fuel that is used only for Gaza’s one power plant, but not ordinary diesel used for back-up and stand-by generators or – along with gasoline – used by private vehicles.

An official from Gaza’s Shifa Hospital said the fuel was needed in Gaza today, not tomorrow.

The Gaza power plant is the only source of electricity supply in Gaza City and the central Gaza area, where one-third of the coastal strip’s residents live.

Dr. Rafiq Maliha, director of contracts at the Gaza power plant, said that the plant has already reduced loads, and has been producing only 45 MW of electricity since yesterday, in an effort to maintain operations until tomorrow.

But, he noted, there has been no confirmation of delivery on Wednesday. “We only believe it when we receive it”, Maliha said.

There are unconfirmed indications that employees of the private Israeli company, Dor Alon, which is the sole provider of fuel to Gaza, are now refusing to transfer fuel to Gaza after two of their colleagues were killed on 9 April in an attack from Gaza that breached the security perimeter of the special fuel transfer facility at Nahal Oz.

“We have been informed officially that the fuel will be transferred tomorrow, in two messages – one last night and one this morning”, the Chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority Dr. Omar Kittaneh said in his office in Ramallah on Tuesday.

He said that “every party in the Palestinian Authority has intervened”, Kittaneh said. “We are representing both the President and the Prime Minister. We want the fuel delivered. It means less punishment for the Palestinian people”.

Dr. Kittaneh confirmed that at the present reduced level of output, there is enough fuel to operate the power plant today and tomorrow only. If no fuel is delivered, he said, the power plant will have to shut down on Wednesday.

Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry, also said on Tuesday that “from tomorrow we intend to deliver fuel for the power plant”. Cooking gas would also be delivered, he added. “We hope Hamas will not shoot again”.

Asked about the Dor Alon employees, Dror said “this is a private company, and there is a situation where people do not want to risk their lives. These Israeli truck drivers are helping the Palestinian people. I can understand that these people are concerned…and there is not much we can tell them”.

Dror said that “We are doing our best, but we are not in the Palestinian area”. He said that the attack last week had been by machine gun from 500 meters away, and that there have also been mortar attacks on all the Israeli-Gaza crossings as well – and, he added, “there is a lot of fuel on these trucks”.

“Yes, there will be more security tomorrow, but all the security cannot help against shooters and mortars – there is a risk”, Dror added. “But we expect the Palestinians to try at least not to attack the drivers”.

No fuel delivered to Gaza on Sunday

The Gaza power plant is teetering on the brink of shut-down by Tuesday, for lack of fuel.

Again on Sunday, the power plant’s manager of contracts, Dr. Rafiq Maliha, said that there still had been no fuel delivered – although he said that one Palestinian truck that had been stuck at the crossing last week had been allowed through. It contained only 45,000 liters of the industrial diesel fuel that the power plant uses – not enough for even half a day of operations for one turbine.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that “The head of the political-defense bureau at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, told the radio Sunday that before fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip are renewed, the investigation into the attack must be completed ‘in order to prevent future attacks’ … He added that Israel will transfer fuel and supplies to Gaza when it ‘sees fit’.”

Gilad also said that Israel was ensuring that there will be no humanitarian crisis in Gaza – though it is not clear exactly how. The Israeli military is putting out frequent updates of the truckloads of humanitarian supplies it is delivering into Gaza – mostly on behalf of international organizations.

But, because of the closure of Nahal Oz, this does not include fuel.

Gisha, the Israeli human rights organization that led the effort to stop those cuts, issued an appeal on Sunday to Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak to order a restoration of all fuel supplies to Gaza. Israel has the right to protect itself against attacks on its civilians. But, just as international law forbids deliberately harming Israeli civilians working at Nahal Oz, so it (also) forbids deliberately harming civilians in Gaza, by depriving them of the fuel they need to produce electricity, travel, and run vital services”.

Currently, Gisha said, Gaza is experiencing rolling electricity blackouts that last approximately three hours a day. In the statement, Gisha’s Executive Director Sari Bashi noted that Israel does not permit fuel to enter Gaza from any point other than Nahal Oz.

Gisha added that “The cuts to Gaza’s fuel supply are part of punitive measures taken against Gaza residents, pursuant to an Israeli Cabinet decision calling for restrictions on the movement of people and goods in an out of Gaza”.

The industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza´s power plant has been paid for by the European Union ever since the plant was able to resume partial operations, many months following the damage inflicted by an IDF airstrike at the end of June 2006, in retaliation for the abduction of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit near the Kerem Shalom crossing. (Shalit is still being held captive somewhere in Gaza.)

Dr. Maliha has told this reporter that the Gaza power plant has never been allowed to replenish its fuel reserves since they were drawn down following the start of Israeli military-imposed sanctions that began on 28 October.

Now, the Gaza power plant has only enough fuel on hand to last to Tuesday – and only due only to its own economies since late January, the last time the power plant was forced to close operations due to lack of fuel.

Since late January, the average daily electrical output of Gaza’s power plant has been limited, because of the reduced quantity of fuel, to 55 MW, Dr. Maliha said.

The Israeli Supreme Court declined to intervene after months of petitioning and arguments from ten Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations who tried to block the military-ordered fuel cuts, and cuts in Israeli-supplied electricity as well.

Despite information supplied to the Court that it would take 3.5 million liters of industrial diesel fuel per week to operate two turbines at a full load — more than the 2.2 million liters permitted under the military-imposed sanctions that have been in place since 28 October — the Israeli Supreme Court did rule that this quantity should be boosted, when it handed down its ruling on 27 January.

Gisha noted in its statement on Sunday that this Israeli Supreme Court decision was “condemned by human rights groups as authorizing illegal collective punishment”.

There is also a severe crisis in ordinary diesel fuel and gasoline for private automobiles, which has nearly paralyzed life in the sealed-off coastal strip where 1.5 million souls are hemmed in, and unable to leave. A Hamas spokesman said Saturday that 80% of all vehicles are without fuel.

Gisha noted, in its statement, that “Gasoline supplies have been cut by 81%, while ordinary diesel has been cut by 43%”.

Interestingly, Haaretz reported on Thursday that “The fuel depot at Nahal Oz, near the Karni crossing did not have guards, despite its proximity to the Gaza border and the presence there of civilians. The IDF only had troops along the border fence, who failed to prevent the terrorists’ infiltration. IDF sources said that Dor Alon, the company that operates the terminal, probably did not post guards at the site to save money, even though the IDF had demanded it. The sources said other companies operating border crossings to the Gaza Strip all employed security guards. In response, Dor Alon said it had never been asked to post guards at the depot and that the IDF is responsible for the crossing”.

Even more interestingly, the same Haaretz story also stated that “Palestinian fuel coordinators alerted Israelis operating the Nahal Oz fueling terminal that Palestinian terrorists had infiltrated Israel prior to the terror attack that left two Israeli civilians dead”.

Gaza power plant running again – expects to have two turbines at full load by just about now

After an infusion of Israeli fuel today, the Gaza power plant has come back on line.

It started powering up just after noon Tuesday, and is now producing between 20 and 30 MW of electricity just after 2:00 p.m.

It will keep powering up until there is “a full load”, sometime tonight, according to Dr. Omar Kittaneh, head of the Palestinian Energy Authority in Ramallah.¨

Dr. Rafiq Maliha, project manager of the Gaza power plant, said over the phone from Gaza Tuesday afternoon that he has been ordered to power up two turbines to 65 MW of electrical production as soon as technically possible. He had expected that this would happen by 5:00 pm this evening, but he now says that normal technical problems have caused a slight delay. “We are still working — it’s just a matter of time”, he said.

Gaza’s power plant stopped generating electricity on Sunday night for lack of fuel.

Dr.Maliha is not sure, however, that the fuel delivered today will be enough to keep the two turbines running until the next shipment of fuel arrives. “We are back to the same problem as before”, Dr. Maliha explained. “There is a shortage of fuel. We are receiving only a limited amount, and we have no reserves”.

But, he added “some people have had no electricity at all for two days, and some have had no electricity for four days. You cannot keep people like that”, he said, especially in this weather. Dr. Maliha said he had been told that the Israelis will deliver more fuel today if they can.

Dr. Kittaneh said that 700,000 liters of the industrial diesel fuel needed to run the plant were delivered on Tuesday. That is about two days supply, he said.

Dr. Kittaneh said that he specifically asked his counterparts in the office of the Coordinator of (Israeli) Government Activities in the Territories, General Mishlav, if this would be just a one-off or one-time delivery. The answer he was given, Dr. Kittaneh said, was that “this will be a continuous process”.

The fuel is delivered through special equipment at the Nahal Oz crossing, and transferred inside Gaza . Dr. Kittaneh said he was also informed that he could expect another 700,000 liters on Thursday, and a third delivery of 700,000 on Sunday.

Dr. Kittaneh said that the three deliveries he has been promised would amount to 2.1 million liters, or just under the 2.2 million liters that the Israelis have promised to deliver weekly – and that Israeli foreign ministry officials mentioned today.

However, 2.1 million liters will allow only just under six days operations of two turbines at full load to generate 65 MW of electricity.

The 700,000 liters delivered today will only allow operating two turbines at partial loads, to generate somewhere between 45-55 MW of electricity over two days, depending on when the fuel actually arrives.

Something more like 2.52 million liters of fuel must be delivered a week to allow seven days of continuous operation of two turbines at full loads and produce 65 MW of electricity.

And, the power plant would like – and is prepared to — bring on a third generator online, to generate about 80 MW of electricity per day. This is about what it produced before the June 2006 Israeli airstrike that destroyed the power plant. But, even that would still be less than the actual demand today.

2.2 million liters is the “increased” amount that was supposed to have been delivered after the Israeli Defense Ministry informed the Israeli High Court of Justice through the state attorney on 10 January that it was authorizing the private Israeli fuel company Dor Alon to deliver with immediate effect.

Instead, the Israeli military last week stepped up activities in Gaza because of continuing attacks on Israeli territory by Qassam rockets and other “projectiles” fired from Gaza.

Because of the military activities, Israel partially closed the border crossing points last Tuesday and Wednesday, then completely sealed them from Thursday night until today – causing a crisis for the Gaza power plant, which had been operating at the “red line” for months.

The Gaza power plant shut down operations on Sunday, and by Sunday night was no longer generating any electricity at all.

Phase I fuel cuts ordered by the Israeli military went into effect on 28 October. From that time, the power plant was receiving only about 1.75 million liters of fuel a week, and had to dip into its reserves daily to keep operating two turbines to produce 65 MW of electricity.

After the reserves were fully depleted on 5 January, the power plant ran two turbines at partial loads, producing varying amounts between 40 and 55 MW – until it stopped, on 20 January.

The UN Security Council will be discussing the situation in Gaza in a few hours time, at the request of the Arab League. And the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to hold a special session on Gaza on Wednesday.

The Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aaron Abramovich, “has directed Israel’s UN delegation to oppose any resolution in the Security Council regarding Gaza, while emphasizing the damage and suffering caused by the incessant firing of Kassam rockets at Sderot and other cities and communities nearby, and the fact that Israel is acting in self-defense”, according to information sent to journalists.

“A situation in which the Security Council debates the plight of the residents of Gaza, while completely ignoring the situation of Israelis living under the constant threat of Kassam rockets, is totally unacceptable,” Mr. Abramovich said.

The message added that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has “approached several members of the Security Council in order to gain their support on this issue”, and has “briefed foreign ambassadors to Israel on this issue today”.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said that Hamas has the ultimate responsibility for the present crisis, but nonetheless she has again informed her Israeli counterparts that a humanitarian crisis is unacceptable and must be avoided.