Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza as Cold Wave Moves In

The Gaza Strip has been plunged into a worsening humanitarian disaster as winter temperatures combine with fuel shortages. Barakat Shlatou contends that Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, the UN and the Arab League all share responsibility for the crisis.

al-monitor Palestinian boys hold candles during a protest in Gaza City against widespread blackouts February 14, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Topics covered

israeli air force, israeli-palestinian conflict, humanitarian crisis, gaza strip, gaza, electricity shortages, egyptian foreign policy, egypt-gaza smuggling, arab league

Feb 21, 2012

Gaza is  suffocating slowly while the "free" world watches without taking action. The children of Gaza are dying of cold and hunger, and the lives of the sick patients are in jeopardy as hospitals are crippled by a lack of fuel.  Furthermore, the [only] power station in Gaza was shut down, also due to a shortage of fuel. People are dying of thirst because the stations pumping water are no longer operational. The power outage also means that water treatment plants are no longer functioning, turning the streets of Gaza into swamps. Schools might close down as there is no electricity to run the heating system during this  bone-chilling cold wave that has swept the Palestinian territories, bringing snow to certain areas.

There are five parties responsible for this disaster that is threatening the lives of Gazans. The first on the list are the occupying forces [the Israelis], for they are the ones responsible for the siege on Gaza.  The siege has caused Gazans to suffer from food insecurity, go without medicine, water or electricity. Six years ago [in 2006], the Israeli Air Force launched an attack on the Gaza Strip, completely destroying its main power plant. [These forces] are determined to bring down Gaza and its people at any cost. The international community should thus compel Israel to take responsibility for its actions and and shoulder the consequences of its occupation. The international community must urge Israel to lift the unjust siege that it has imposed on more than 1.7 million citizens, and to stop its policies of mass murder.

The Palestinian Authority bears primary responsibility for the disaster. Gaza is an integral part of the [Palestinian] homeland, and should not be left alone to its fate. The authorities in Ramallah should pressure the [Israeli] occupiers to supply Gaza with fuel, or urgently send over some of its fuel before the situation further deteriorates.   

The third party responsible are the Egyptians. Following [the Egyptian] revolution, the Gazans had high hopes that Egypt would [stop complying with] the [Israeli] siege on Gaza. 

However, things somehow took a wrong turn. The smuggled fuel from Egypt [through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border] was used to cover a large part of the fuel deficit brought on by the destruction of the sole power station. However, recently the Egyptian authorities have started to crack down on smugglers and attempted to curb fuel smuggling through the tunnels. Egypt has effectively taken all possible measures to prevent fuel smuggling into the Gaza Strip. We expected Egypt, a country that witnessed a revolution and professes a desire to cut ties with the former regime and its policies, to find ways to lift the siege on Gaza. Egypt could have easily pressured Israel into completely lifting the siege, especially given that it has proven able to achieve valuable breakthroughs on many other issues.

We can also not forget the [negative] role played by the Arab League. Two years ago, the league approved an electricity linkage plan between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. However, this plan was never implemented despite the fact that the League is aware of Gaza’s grave need for such infrastructure, which is constantly targeted by the [occupying Israelis]. The league should work on averting this disaster before it is too late.

The fifth culprit in this disaster is the United Nations, or the so-called international community. It does not only stand idly by, but also conspires [with Israel] against Gaza and its people. The United Nations refuses the slightest criticism of "the world's spoiled brat" [Israel] that attacks first, and complains later.

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