Gaza’s infrastructure on the verge of collapse, report warns

Israeli group finds PA, Hamas partly responsible for crisis, but puts lion’s share of blame on Israel

BY DOV LIEBER, TOI

Gaza’s energy, water and sewage systems are on the verge of collapse, a new report by an Israeli group said, placing the lion’s share of the blame on Israel.

The Gisha organization, which released its report, “Hand on the Switch: Who’s Responsible for Gaza’s Infrastructure Crisis?” on Tuesday, said the 1.8 million inhabitants of the Strip are plagued by frequent blackouts, undrinkable water and an outdated cellular network.

Israel says its blockade is essential to prevent terrorists from obtaining materials to fortify military positions, dig tunnels and build rockets to fire at the Jewish state. Gaza’s Hamas rulers seek the elimination of Israel.

The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli agency that regulates the Israeli border with Gaza, did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

The grim state of the Palestinian enclave’s infrastructure led earlier this month to the largest demonstrations in years by Gaza residents against the Palestinian leadership. The protests were sparked by a fuel shortage that left Gaza’s single power station able to provide electricity for only a handful of hours each day.

But Gaza’s electricity troubles go deeper than the latest shortage, which was caused by a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority over fuel tax payments, Gisha charged.

“Electricity blackouts last at least 12 hours daily, and can reach 20 hours,” the report said.

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

“Cooking gas and fuel for industry and vehicles are continually in short supply. These shortages disrupt daily life, impede education, health services, transportation, sanitation, farming and industry, and, consequently, impact the economy and human security,” the report charged.

According to Gisha, Israel sells Gaza 120 megawatts of electricity, Egypt sells 28 MW, and Gaza’s power plant produces 60-80 MW on average. Combined, the total wattage is still only about half of what is needed to meet daily demand, the report argues.

Gisha also said that the amount of cooking gas Israel sells to Gaza — 160 tons daily in 2016 — meets a little more than half of the 300-ton daily demand.

While the most recent electricity shortage brought Gazans into the streets, they may soon contend with an even more dire crisis of water quality that could threaten the habitability of the Strip.

Some 90 percent of Gaza’s water is taken from an underground aquifer. But, according to the report, the aquifer is being depleted far faster than it can be restored, and overuse has harmed water quality. As much as 96% of the water in the coastal aquifer is already unfit for use for drinking or irrigation, the report said, noting a a UN projection that the damage to the aquifer will have become irreversible by 2020.

The report warned that “Gaza’s dilapidated pipe system is contaminated, cannot be used for most needs and may constitute a health hazard.”

Because water running through the pipes in undrinkable, families must buy trucked or bottled water, the report said.

In 2015, Gaza consumed 95 million cubic meters of water for domestic use, with consumption per capita averaging 86 liters a day. According to the World Health Organization, 100 liters per person per day is the minimum required to maintain good health, the report said.

The water crisis is exacerbated both by the electricity crisis — power is needed to pump the water — and by the sewage crisis, which leads to further contamination.

A Palestinian employee works at a desalination plant during the inauguration of the first phase of the project on January 19, 2017, in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

A Palestinian employee works at a desalination plant during the inauguration of the first phase of the project on January 19, 2017, in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Gaza has five sewage treatment plants, which, according to the report, are only partially operational — “which makes it impossible to complete the treatment.”

Some 28% of Gazans are said to live in areas without sewage infrastructure.

The result is that most of Gaza’s sewage, tens of thousands of liters per day, is let untreated into the sea. This endangers the groundwater, public health and the fishing industry, the report said.

“Israel blames Palestinians for the situation, but, at the same time, restricts and severely delays the entry of materials and equipment necessary for progress on projects, including those meant to repair damage from the latest military operation in 2014,” the report said.

“The risk of future conflict deters foreign donors from initiating new projects,” the report added.

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since the terror group took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

In the short term, Gisha recommended “waiving the excise tax for diesel, improving collection on energy bills, repairing existing infrastructure and adapting it to demand, reaching agreements with Israel on rates, and increasing the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza by connecting the supply line already agreed to by Israel.”

The group recommended Egypt become a supplier of Gaza’s electricity.

The report also criticized Israel for denying Gazans access to 3G cellular networks, especially given the Strip’s isolation from the rest of the world.

Under its “dual-use” policy, which restricts objects that have a possible military use, Israel, the report states, restricts essential communications equipment, including optical fibers, routers, recording devices and even fax machines and printers.

In the report, Gisha details what role each player in the Strip has in each crisis, including the PA in Ramallah, Hamas in Gaza and Israel.

Ultimately, however, the report places the lion’s share of the blame on Israel.

“One actor…stands out above all the others with its 50 years of consistent control over Gaza and its major influence, both past and present, over so many aspects of life there – the State of Israel,” the report said.

The report added: “Decades of Israel’s physical presence inside Gaza created a near complete dependency on it for the supply of energy, water and communications. Gaza’s infrastructure was not developed according to the needs of a growing population in a rapidly changing world, and as a result, Gaza was left behind.”

In an important step toward easing the enclave’s water crisis, last week international aid workers opened a new desalination plant.

The plant will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, a small fraction of Gaza’s needs.

The European Union said it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019.

AP contributed to this report.

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10 Comments / 10 Comments

  1. G.Man

    Perhaps if the parasites at the top, stole less, and spent the balance on their people, they would not be in this situation.

  2. Russell

    The report puts a lot if blame on Israel but if the Gazans stopped trying to destroy israel there would be no blockade and there is plenty of money to build infrastructure if they would stop wasting it on tunnels and rockets. The Gazans have done everything warlike possible to get a life, even to educating their children to hate and blow themselves up and they are fighting a lost cause, because it in a false cause and everyone knoews it although the terrorist supporters and the UN are believing their own lies. One thing hey have nevet tried. A peaceful approach. Accept Israel’s right to have their country and work with them to build what could be a paradise osn earth. But no, must havg it all and have it now. The suffering of the Arabs in Gaza is of theirnown making.

  3. Russell

    Isarel are not to blame, if the Arabs would stop trying to destroy them and try a peaceful approach instead of wanting to commit genocide then there would be enough money to build a great country in Gaza. Instead they waste everything they have on tunnels and weapons and educating every generation to carry on this ridiculous quest to take the whole land from Israel. The UN and EU are stupid enough to keep encouraging them. Anyone with a knowledge of history knows that their whole Palestinian nation narrative is a lie as is the Arab quest for a caliphate, also based on falseness and barbaric warfare. You cannot build a nation on lies and terrorism, the supporters of their terrorism believe their own lies and that isnthe most stupid thing on the planet. G-d gave that land to Israel with a promise to protect them, anyone trying to undo that is bringing suffering and a curse upon themselves. The Arabs have never tried a sincere peaceful approach and that is why they are in the mess they are not just in Israel but across the entire Middle East.

  4. Lev Azkhar

    This is very much an example of muslim thinking. Waw, war, war. Abuse, abuse, abuse, of everything at hand and everybody weaker. Pseudo-honor, pseudo-honor, pseudo-honor. Lies, lies, lies, to cover and justify anything, everything.
    Well being of the people, their basic needs met, is not in their thinking, let alone their priorities.
    The one to blame for everything; Israel, Israel, Israel.
    It is dificult even to start thinking where a change in this situation can start.
    UNITED NATIONS wake up! Do something useful for once in your miserable life! Solve the Gaza Crisis without putting Isreli lives in danger.
    Where are the wealthy Arab brothers of gazans? To answer this question, go back to the begining or this article. It is a circle.

  5. bernard ross

    Other than contaminating Israeli water it all sounds good to me.
    I cant think of a greater blessing for those who daily teach their children that Jews are sons of apes and pigs, those that send their spawn to jew killing summer camps.

    If europe wants jew killers to survive, which I dont, they should convince hamas to immediately lay down all their arms and leave and for gazans to purge all their culture of anti semitism… until then I welcome the blessing of their daily suffering and hope it increases 1000 fold.

    I suggest the euros who fund jew killing to ask Israels permission to send flotillas to take out their pets to europe, libya or any other cesspool.

    It is an insult for euros to even waste jews times with the woes of jew killers. The euros instigated it with their funding of these anti semites.

    Israel should encourage further blockading with only the least supplies to maintain above starvation levels to encourage their enemies to leave

    Israel should inform the UN and the EU to direct all their worries to the enemy as Israel is disinterested in the improvement of the status of jew killing anti semites. DUH???

    (ps… i never read the details because I dont give a damn…. Israel should do the same.)

  6. In the 1920s after Jews were kicked out of Gaza city, a Rabbi said that Gaza would never prosper again until the Jews return to Gaza. The Disengagement only proved him right. The only way to fix the Gaza Strip is to give back to us, the Jews.

  7. Sebastien Zorn

    Why is this a problem?

  8. xxx

    And let us not forget that right beside Gaza is an almost 100% Muslim country. It was 95% 7 years ago so should have had most of it’s Christians driven put or murdered by now.

    THEY only allow a 2-3 day border opening a few times a year, and heavily restrict the traffic mainly to people and not goods. Gaza could easily get ALL of it’s gas from Egypt which produces enough to export, as they used to a few years ago, to Israel.. This would drive Gaza’s turbines and provide electricity 24 hours a day and also Egypt could provide everything wlse Gaza uses, Israel would not need to provide a single item except as a matter of normal trading to and fro..

    Of course Egypt itself is staggering from crisis to crisis but all of the unstable Arab countries are doing the same, and still survive. So adding 1.7 million to it’s population of close to 100 million should go unnoticed.

    Yet….. Egypt is NOT criticised by the International Community….why….because there is no cathartic benefit for European Anti-Semites to jump on a country that is not full of Jews; Egypt is Muslim…whom by all appearances, they seem to love….

  9. Hamanslayer

    @ Gany Kaliya:
    No, we do NOT want Gaza, a blight on the already cursed Meddle East… All those years that Egypt had control of Gaza, even under the aegis of the Moslem Brotherhood which is a direct sponsor of Hamas, she never wanted to coopt Gaza or do much for its inhabitants — because they found them recalcitrant, untrustworthy, and just plain disgusting. The stupid “report” describing the stinking situation there makes some ridiculous and unacceptable (verging on the No Good Obfuscation NGO garbage being anti-Semitic, like Betselem, Pieces Now, and other similar Jew-hating and Israel bashing turds) accusations and “blaming.”

    It is not just Hamas tat is to blame, one must remember that the majority of the residents of Gaza elected them over the “less terroristic” Fatah. Did Great Britain and the US have an obligation to supply Nazi Germany with fuel, electricity, cement for reconstruction and food? Would you say they had such an obligation to Germany or to Japan in 1944-45?
    Study the statistics — how much cement was delivered into Gaza for reconstruction of housing in 2015, in 2016? How much of it actually went to its designated purpose? OK, that’s enough of the BS “reports” — Israel is not going to sent any of its people into the Hyena’s den to improve the sewage system; it will not supplement the UN’s joke of desalination plants which will take three or four years to build (instead of a year or two at three or four times the size of the current ones), and will certainly not give away even more electricity to its warring enemies who are mostly behind in paying for the amount already being supplied to them. You do not like this? TOUGH SH-T, GISHA!

  10. jim hane

    While I am not a Muslim, I think I can answer your “basic” question of hatred.

    “The descendants of Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham through Keturah were given the eastern country and are referred to as the children or people of the east. They are the progenitors of the Arabs. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, traces the starting of his lineage back to Ishmael through his first born son, Nabaioth.” FROM: http://www.bibleinfo.com/…/what-does-bible-say-about…
    And now, to fully understand the hatred, go to the Christian Bible and read Galatians chapter 4. After that, and only if you want to, you can read the whole story of Ishmael and Isaac in the book of Genesis. The hatred from Ishmael toward Isaac continues to this day and will never end.

    Although the Bible doesn’t specifically say when Islam began, let’s explore the following. The descendants of Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham through Keturah were given the eastern country and are referred to as the children or people of the east. They are the progenitors of the Arabs.

    Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, traces the starting of his lineage back to Ishmael through his first born son, Nabaioth. It’s in the Bible, the Torah, Genesis 25:6,12-18, RSV. “But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.”

    “These are the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maid, bore to Abraham. These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, named in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the first-born of Ishmael; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

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