On Sept. 19, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip “hostile territory” and authorized steps to punish its civilian population. It decided that every Qassam rocket fired into Israel would carry a price tag: cutting the supply of electricity and fuel that Israel sells to Gaza. This assumes that disrupting civilian life in Gaza will have positive political results for Israel.
Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have been living with collective punishment for some time. We have endured years of border closures, aerial attacks and military operations — measures Israel has always explained as militarily necessary. But now, Israeli politicians claim it is legitimate to deprive all of Gaza’s civilians of basic needs.
Israel controls Gaza’s borders and the movement of all people and goods. Since Hamas came to power in June, Israel has tightened its siege. It has banned raw materials for manufacturing and construction; only basic foodstuffs are permitted into Gaza, and exports have been halted. Gaza’s economy is suffocating: Since June, 85 percent of its factories and 95 percent of its construction projects have been paralyzed. More than 70,000 people have lost their jobs. A million and a half people are locked in a pressure cooker in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Stripped of the ability to travel, receive goods or engage in productive work, Gaza’s residents have become dependent on Western and Islamic aid organizations.
Disrupting the supply of electricity and fuel will first and foremost affect medical devices, refrigerators, operating-room lighting and other essential systems.
Cutting fuel and electricity threatens to create a water and sewage crisis in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas. Power is needed to run treatment plants, pump water to homes and pump sewage away from populated areas. Since Israel began restricting fuel supplies on Oct. 28, I have had difficulty purchasing the full amount of fuel needed to power Gaza’s water system. Early this month, I stopped operating seven wells that provided drinking water to 35,000 people. Last week, I stopped operating three other wells and two sewage pumping stations, serving 50,000 people. Already, more than 15 percent of Gaza’s residents do not receive an adequate supply of water to their homes. [complete article]