The State of Gaza Strip Border Crossings

1 April – 7 May 2008

 

Summary

The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip crossings continued, and life was extremely difficult in cities, villages and refugee camps across the Gaza Strip. 1.5m Palestinian civilians continue to suffer violations of their rights to free movement as well as their rights to access basic education and health facilities and other vital services. The continued reduction of fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip caused further deterioration in standards of living for civilians who are already facing serious difficulties in accessing some food and medical supplies as well as restricted access to transport services. Factories were forced to cease production and local authorities were unable to deliver public cleaning services, or sometimes even deliver safe drinking water, or treat waste water.

During the reporting period, the most significant effects of the closure and continuing reduction of fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip were as follows:

·        Gaza Strip cities, villages and camps were in a state of near paralysis with streets almost devoid of normal movement and life.

·        UNRWA was forced to stop all its humanitarian aid food distribution programs targeting some 650,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip for four days. The agency suffered fuel deficiencies throughout the reporting period.

·        Living standards continued to deteriorate due to siege and scarcity of foodstuffs and medicines, resulting in serious price increases.

·        Hundreds of citizens remained deprived from their right to access treatment in hospitals outside the Gaza Strip

·        The work of educational facilities, including schools, institutes, and universities, were reduced due to the paralysis of the transport sector. In addition, student absences increased due to fuel shortages.

·        85% of public transport was forced to close due to fuel shortages. 

·        15 drinking water wells were closed, causing shortages of water for more than  100,000 people across Gaza.

·        In addition, the operation of a further 125 water reservoirs was affected.

·        12 wastewater treatment plants completely ran out of fuel, and daily dumping of 50,000 m3 of untreated water into the sea continued.

·        The risks of environmental crisis increased as garbage dumpsters belonging to local municipalities and councils were forced to cease working, and UNRWA was also forced to reduce its cleaning services in the refugee camps.

·        85% of vehicles belonging to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) were taken off the road. This hindered the delivery of drinking water to citizens, plus the treatment of wastewater, and maintenance of public networks.

Seeking to impose further collective punishment on civilians in the Gaza Strip, the IOF continued its closure policy during the reporting period. In line with this, the IOF tightened the stifling siege on the Gaza Strip, continuing to affect every aspect of civilian life, including supplies of food and medicine, fuel supplies, construction materials, and the raw materials required for various economic sectors. The IOF also continued to prevent exports leaving Gaza, whilst shortages of good inside the Gaza Strip led to unprecedented price increases. Poverty and unemployment rates are currently estimated at 80% and 55% respectively.

During the reporting period, the single most significant problem was the chronic fuel shortages which led to the closure of all gas stations in the Gaza Strip. As a result, public transport was paralysed, whilst health services, including environmental health services, were seriously affected. Provisions of safe drinking water were also seriously affected. 

In addition, severe restrictions continued to be imposed on civilian movements to and from the Gaza Strip. Rafah International Crossing Point crossing remained closed throughout the 37-day reporting period, while a few civilians were permitted to travel via Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing. Civilians in the Gaza Strip remained isolated from the external world including the West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, and abroad.

Conditions at the Gaza Strip commercial crossings also deteriorated. Al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, the Gaza Strip’s main commercial crossing, remained completely closed for 29 days and was partially opened for 8 days in order to allow the delivery of some food items only. Nahal Oz Crossing remained closed for 33 days for fuel supplies (diesel and benzene) and was partially opened for 19 days to allow the delivery of limited quantities of industrial fuel for the Gaza Strip power station. Sofa Crossing remained completely closed throughout the 37-day reporting period for aggregate and construction materials, but was opened a few hours per day for 25 days in order to allow the delivery of some humanitarian aid. Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing remained completely closed for 21 days and was partially opened for 16 days to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

This briefing highlights the impact of the severe siege and crossings closure on civilian life in the Gaza Strip, especially the impact on families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, who continue to be denied their rights to visit their husbands, sons and daughters in jail in Israel.

 

Civilian Crossings

Beit Hanoun (Erez) and Rafah International Crossing Point were subjected to closure throughout the 37-day reporting period. Since 10 June, 2007 Beit Hanoun has been closed for 331 days, and Rafah Crossing has been closed for 334 days. During the reporting period, the IOF permitted a limited number of civilians, including members of diplomatic missions, international staff, and some patients, to travel to Israel and the West Bank via Beit Hanoun Crossing. However, they were all subjected to rigorous security procedures.

 

Rafah International Crossing Point:

·           The Crossing was closed throughout the 37-day reporting period. Since 10 June, 2007 the crossing has been closed for 331 days. 

·           On 1 April, 300 Egyptian civilians stranded in the Gaza strip since the breach of the border in January 2008 were finally allowed to leave the Gaza Strip. On the same day, approximately 15 Palestinian patients returned to the Gaza strip after receiving medical treatment in Egypt. 

·           On 6 April, the Egyptian authorities returned the body of Abdul Karim Juma’a Shallouf, aged 22, one day after his death in Al-Arish hospital. He had been treated after being rescued from a collapsed tunnel under the Gaza-Egyptian border on 30 March and died of his injuries on 5 April.

·           On 14 April, the Egyptian authorities allowed about 20 patients, some of whom had been seriously injured by the IOF, to travel to Egypt to receive treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

·           On 17 April, the Egyptian authorities returned the bodies of two Palestinian civilians who died in Egyptian hospitals. Abdullah Mahmoud Suleiman, aged 22, and Mohammed Noor Al-Mtawwak, aged 20, were both transferred to Al-Arish hospital on 16 April, for urgent medical treatment. They died of their injuries and their bodies were returned to the Gaza Strip via Rafah Crossing,

·           On 19 April, the Egyptian authorities allowed approximately 30 patients who had been receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals to return to the Gaza Strip.

·           On 19 April, the Egyptian authorities returned the body of Fullah Suleiman Abu Daqqa, age 60, who had died in Egypt after receiving cancer treatment.  

·           On 26 April, the Egyptian authorities allowed 6 Palestinian patients who were receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals to return to the Gaza Strip. 

·           On 1 May, the Egyptian authorities allowed a further 6 Palestinian patients to return to Gaza after medical treatment in Egypt. 

·           On 3 May, the Egyptian authorities allowed 6 Palestinian civilians to enter Egypt after special coordination had been arranged. 

·           On 4 May, the Egyptian authorities allowed Marvan Kheil, aged 19, to enter Egypt for medical treatment. 

·           On 5 May, 5 Palestinian patients who were receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals returned to Gaza. On the same day, 2 Palestinian patients crossed over to Egypt to access medical treatment.  

·           Hundreds of Gaza Strip citizens remain stranded in Gaza having applied to leave in order to work or study or access medical treatment abroad. This includes 500 students enrolled in international universities and at least 350 patients. 

 

 Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing:

·           Closure and movement restrictions continued to be imposed on Beit Hanoun Crossing throughout the 37-day reporting period, with limited exceptions for international staff and diplomats and critically ill patients.

·           The Crossing was completely closed from 19-29 April for Jewish holidays.

·           Since 17 January, 2008, the IOF has prevented Palestinian civilians working in international organizations and the limited number of Palestinian traders allowed to enter Israel from accessing Beit Hanoun Crossing.

 

Prisoners’ Rights:

Palestinian Prisoners Day, 17 April, 2008 also marked ten months since civilians from the Gaza Strip have been allowed to visit their relatives imprisoned in jail in Israel.

There are some 950 Gazans in jail in Israel, including four women. Dozens are held in solitary confinement. The Gaza family visits program was facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which has been facilitating Palestinian families to visit jailed relatives held in Israel since 1967. The entire family visits program has been subjected to consistent and serious obstructions by the IOF, and in June 2007 the Gaza component of the program was suspected by the IOF on the grounds of security and lack of a coordination partner. PCHR notes that 150 out of the Gaza Strip 900 prisoners had already been deprived of all visitation rights prior to the program being suspended. In addition, only ’Category 1’ visitors are allowed to visit their relatives in jail in Israel. This includes parents and siblings below the age of sixteen. However, many immediate family members fall outside this category. 

Latifa Al-Kurd, age 70, is the mother of Tha’er Al-Kurd, age 37, who has been in prison in Israel for twenty years, and has another 25 years to serve. Mrs. Al-Kurd spoke to a PCHR fieldworker: 

” I used to visit my  son, who is imprisoned in Nafha prison in Israel, twice a month. This was between 1988, the year he was arrested, and last June [2007]. His father stopped visiting him before this time because of his own health, and the restrictions imposed on us as prisoners’ families. Since the clashes on June 15, 2007, I have not seen my son. The Israelis have suspended the program that was supervised by the ICRC and I have lost all contact with my son. We can’t afford to send him money for his food because we are suffering extreme poverty ourselves. Being deprived of visiting my son has been terrible, particularly because I am the only one who was allowed to visit him regularly” 

Salma Al-Bis, age 49, has 13 children. One of her daughters, 29 year old Wafa’a Al-Bis, is in prison in Israel. She also spoke to a PCHR field worker.

“My daughter was arrested on June 20, 2005 at Beit Hanoun crossing. She was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Since she was arrested, none of my family has been allowed to visit her.  The Israeli authorities have denied us permits.  We used to contact her via the lawyer. But once the trial proceedings ended, we lost contact with her. Now we have no news at all about her.”

Shehda Eid Ayiad Al-Bahri, age 55, is the father of two prisoners: 31 year old Tayseer, who was arrested in 2001 and is now serving twelve years in jail in Israel, and 27 year old Bashir, who was arrested in 2004 and is serving four year in jail in Israel. He told a PCHR fieldworker: 

” I have been prevented from visiting my sons in jail since 2004. My wife is allowed to visit only my eldest son, who is imprisoned in Nafha jail. The Israelis authorities only allow Tayseer’s wife to visit him on occasion. Tayseer got married only a short period before he was arrested. No-one has been allowed to visit him since-June 2007. Since then we have had no direct contact with him at all.  

Asef Oweida Kullab, age 20, is the son of Oweida Kullab who was arrested on October 12, 1988 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

“I have not seen my father, who is imprisoned in Beer-Sheva prison, since I was a child. When I got married he couldn’t be there. Just two years after he was arrested, my father’s health started to deteriorate due to the torture and harassment he was exposed to by the Israelis. In the early 1990s, the ICRC told us my father was suffering from a mental illness and he was being held in a solitary confinement cell. The Israeli jailers insist that my father is sane and aware of his actions and he is only pretending to be sick. In 1993, we were allowed to visit my father, but he did not come to see us because of his deteriorated health. In 2005 and 2006, I submitted several applications for a permit to visit my father; but the applications were rejected without any reason. When I got married last week, I was very sad because my father was not with us to share my joy. We used to receive news about my father from prisoners’ families who were allowed to visit their relatives in the same jail, and also from some released prisoners. These people told us that my father’s health was getting worse. I am very worried about my father’s health mainly as I have heard no news about him and no-one has been allowed to see the prisoners now for more than ten months.”

Imad Jamil Abu Ghaben, age 34, is the brother of Jihad Abu Ghaben, age 38, who has served 20 years in jail in Israel and has eighteen to serve. 

” My mother and some of my family used to periodically visit my brother ever since he was arrested in 1988. When the Second Intifada broke out, only my father and mother were allowed to visit him. Two years ago, my father was also prevented from visiting Jihad, and my mother had to deal with a lot of difficulties in order to continue visiting him in jail. On March 27, 2007, I was allowed to visit Jihad and I was allowed to take my little daughter with me.. We were humiliated by the Israelis who exposed us to police dogs and to rigorous inspections that lasted for hours. We have been prevented from seeing him for more than a year now, and we only receive news about him from prisoner’s families in the West Bank. Recently, the Israelis closed his cantina account. We are all very worried about him.”

 

Health Status:

During the reporting period, the IOF continued to hinder the passage of patients who required medical treatment outside of Gaza. Patients requiring urgent treatment in the West Bank or Israel were deprived of their right to receive treatment. The number of patients allowed to pass through Beit Hanoun crossing for treatment in Israel or the West Bank averaged 18 per day. PCHR notes that patients applying for treatment in Israel or the West Bank are suffering from serious diseases and are in urgent need for treatment that is not available in Gaza. Furthermore, these patients are not able to access Egyptian hospitals due to the continued closure of Rafah crossing. 

1.         On 19 April, the IOF completely closed Beit Hanoun Crossing for all patients. This closure continued until the morning of 29 April.

2.         From 1 May – 4 May the IOF closed the crossing for patients with permits to travel to Israel.

3.         Through its representative in the District Civil Liaison Office, the Ministry of Health submitted 680 applications for travel permits for patients requiring treatment in Israel or in the West Bank. The Israeli occupation refused 113 applications, i.e.; 17.3% of total applications submitted. During the reporting period IOF allowed a total of 658 patients to travel via the crossing for treatment in Israel and the West Bank.

4.         During the reporting period 234 permit applications were submitted for patients and are still awaiting responses.

5.         The IOF continue to prevent Palestinian ambulances from transporting patients to hospitals in Israel or in the West Bank. However, it allows some ambulances transporting critically ill patients to deliver patients to Israeli ambulances. During their passage via Beit Hanoun crossing, Palestinian patients are subjected to humiliating inspection procedures, which can seriously delay their access and can result in patients being forced to return to the Gaza Strip.

 

Commercial Crossings (imports and exports)

During the reporting period, the IOF continued to prevent the export of Gaza products and to reduce imports into the Gaza Strip. Imports were limited to international aid and limited quantities of basic goods. 

 

Al-Mental (Karni) Crossing:

·           During the reporting period, the crossing was completely closed for imports and exports to and from the Gaza strip for 29 days, and opened for imports for a few hours per day for 8 days. The IOF prevented Gaza exports to Israel, the West Bank, and abroad. Imports were limited to wheat, flour, and animal fodder. 

·           From 13 June, 2007 until the end of the current reporting period, the crossing had been closed for a total of 264 days and partially opened for 60 days to allow imports of  wheat, flour, and fodder. 

·           Due to severe imports restrictions, the Gaza Strip suffered continued shortages of foods, medicine, and medical supplies. The almost continued closure of the crossing has also damaged all economic sectors. This has decimated manufacturing in Gaza, with an estimated 70% of businesses being forced to close. The table below details the quantities of wheat, flour, and fodder allowed into the Gaza Strip via the Crossing during the reporting period:

 

Day

Date

Operating hours

Allowed truckloads

Quantity in tons

Wednesday

2/4/2008

6

70

2860

Thursday

3/4/2008

2

10

380

Monday

7/4/2008

7

67

2750

Monday

14/4/2008

8

50

2050

Tuesday

23/4/2008

3

36

1440

Sunday

4/5/2008

3

33

1300

Monday

5/5/2008

6

60

2400

Tuesday

6/5/2008

7

66

2670

 

Sofa Crossing:

·        The Crossing remained completely closed for 12 days and partially open for imports for 25 days. The IOF permitted imports of humanitarian aid for UNRWA and WFP and some basic supplies for local traders. The IOF permitted the import of 1,245 truckloads, including rice, flour, milk and medicine for UNRWA, the Ministry of Social affairs, Ministry of Health, and UNICEF. In addition, limited supplies of  sugar, fruits, frozen meat, dairy products, rice, and salt were permitted for local traders.

·        Since June 15, 2007, the IOF has banned all imports of aggregate and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.

·        The IOF allowed imports of limited numbers of livestock. On 11 April, 660 head of cattle were imported into Gaza via the crossing, which is insufficient to meet the overall demand for fresh meat in Gaza.

·        The construction sector crisis continued. Due to chronic shortages of construction materials, prices have quadrupled since the closure tightened. This has hindered dozens of development projects across the Gaza Strip. Construction and housing projects have been indefinitely postponed, causing the layoff of thousands of construction workers.

 

Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) Crossing

·        During the reporting period, the crossing remained completely closed for 21 days and was

partially opened for 16 days to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and limited quantities of basic supplies for local traders. 

·        The prevention of strawberry and cut-flowers exports intended for European markets caused heavy losses for farmers during the last harvest. The Gaza Agricultural Cooperative estimated that strawberry farmers daily produced 30-40 tons of fresh strawberries a day during the harvest. This quantity far exceeded the export limits set by IOF. The Cooperative estimated that the farmers lost some $15 million between them.

·        During the reporting period, the crossing operated only to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, plus the delivery of limited quantities of basic supplies for local traders. The IOF permitted 398 truckloads to enter Gaza via the crossing, the majority of them containing humanitarian aid donated from Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, and the Arab citizens of Israel, in addition to some basic supplies for local traders such as medicine, rice, flour, and sugar.

 

Nahal Oz crossing:

·        The crossing was completely closed for 18 days, during which time no fuel entered the Gaza Strip.

·        No benzene supplies entered the Gaza Strip for 33 days of the reporting period. Prior to the total fuel stoppage, limited quantities of fuel entered Gaza for four days. During the reporting period, only 152,000 liters of benzene, which is equivalent to less than 3.5% of the Strip’s need for the reported period, were delivered to the Gaza Strip. Prior to these restriction on fuel imports, approximately 120,000 litres of benzene used to enter the Gaza Strip every day. 

·        Diesel supplies to the Gaza Strip completely stopped for 32 days. Prior to this stoppage, the crossing was open for five days, to allow the delivery of 998,400 liters of diesel; i.e. 7.7% of the Strip’s needs during the reported period. Prior to these restrictions, 350,000 litres of benzene used to enter every day. 

·        During the reporting period, the IOF prevented all imports of cooking gas for 23 days. However cooking gas imports were allowed for 14 days, during which time some 2,800 tons of cooking gas entered to the Gaza Strip; i.e. 21.6% of the Strip’s needs during the reported period. The Gaza Strip needs approximately 350 tons of cooking gas per day. (See the table below).

 

Fuel quantities allowed to the Gaza Strip during the reporting period:

 

Day

Date

Benzene in liters

Diesel in liters

Cooking Gas in tons

Industrial fuel

Tuesday

1/4/2008

38,000

200,000

300

450,000

Wednesday

2/4/2008

38,000

200,000

300

450,000

Thursday

3/4/2008

00

00

240.930

405,140

Friday

4/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Saturday

5/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Sunday

6/4/2008

38,000

198,400

177.810

469,000

Monday

7/4/2008

00

200,000

271

449,000

Tuesday

8/4/2008

38,000

200,000

250

450,000

Wednesday

9/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Thursday

10/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Friday

11/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Saturday

12/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Sunday

13/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Monday

14/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Tuesday

15/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Wednesday

16/4/2008

00

00

90

360,000

Thursday

17/4/2008

00

00

215

801,000

Friday

18/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Saturday

19/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Sunday

20/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Monday

21/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Tuesday

22/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Wednesday

23/4/2008

00

00

00

1,000,000

Thursday

24/4/2008

00

00

00

964,000

Friday

25/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Saturday

26/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Sunday

27/4/2008

00

00

00

980,000

Monday

28/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Tuesday

29/4/2008

00

00

170

255,000

Wednesday

30/4/2008

00

00

00

00

Thursday

1/5/2008

00

00

180

681,000

Friday

2/5/2008

00

00

00

00

Saturday

3/5/2008

00

00

00

00

Sunday

4/5/2008

00

00

154

522,000

Monday

5/5/2008

00

00

116

270,000

Tuesday

6/5/2008

00

00

186

908,000

Wednesday

7/5/2008

00

00

150

400,000

Grand total

 

152,000

998,400

2,800.740

9,814,140

Daily average

 

4,108

27.094

75.695

265,247

 

The Impacts of Fuel Reductions:

The fuel crisis was exacerbated by the continued closure of Nahal Oz Crossing, and the prevention of the supply of all fuel derivatives to the Gaza Strip by the IOF. From 7 April, the Gaza Petroleum and Gas Stations Owners Association refused to accept these deliveries of insufficient amounts of fuel. All aspects of life in Gaza Strip were affected by the chronic fuel shortages, especially the work of hospitals and health centres, water delivery services, water treatment services, and farms. Transport across Gaza was severely disrupted and the 145 gas stations in the Gaza Strip closed.

There were also serious shortages of cooking gas as previously documented.

 

Health Sector:

The Ministry of Health announced that the majority of its ambulances were grounded as of 19 April, due to shortages of fuel. The Ministry started to use its limited fuel reserve to operate health centres and vital hospital equipment. The Ministry warned that the expiry of its small fuel reserves would paralyze the health sector, and that it would not be able to deliver even a minimal level of healthcare to civilians. In addition, hospital and clinic staff across the Gaza Strip struggled to reach their workplaces due to the transport crisis. 

 

Transport

According to PCHR fieldworkers, since Monday 7 April, public and private transport in the Gaza Strip has been partially paralysed due to the chronic fuel crisis.  Thousands of vehicles were taken off the roads, and more than 85% of public transport was forced to close. Access to work, schools, universities and hospitals were all severely affected. 

 

Water and sewerage:

The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) informed PCHR that, “The CMWU has been suffering a serious fuel crisis since the beginning of the year as a result of Israel continuing to reduce fuel supplies to Gaza. We fear this crisis will get worse.” The CMWU stated that fuel quantities supplied under the contract it signed with Bahluul Petrol Company dropped from 150,000 litres/month to 45,000 litres/month; i.e. less than the third of the quantity that used to be supplied to the CMWU. Having received its fuel at the end of March, CMWU stated that the reduction in fuel was severely affecting deliveries of drinking water, plus the function of waste water pumps, and waste water treatment plants. 

·        15 water wells operating on industrial fuel and not connected to electricity have completely ceased operating. This caused the suspension of water supplies to some 100,000 citizens across the Gaza Strip and obliged CMWU to pump limited quantities of water from wells operating with electricity in order to deliver drinking water for limited hours and at spaced intervals.  

·        125 reservoirs are operating at partial capacity due to lack of electricity for the pumps. The reduction of fuel supplied to CMWU and the allocation of limited quantities of CMWU fuel supplies to reservoirs operating on electricity led to the expiry of fuel stocks in 95% of its reservoirs and a decrease in fuel stocks for the remaining reservoirs. The 125 reservoir wells whose working hours were reduced normally operate for 8 hours/day and civilians supplied with water from these wells normally have access to water for 3 hours/day. After the reduction of working hours in these wells, civilian access to water in the areas where

the 125 wells exist decreased by 50%. These 125 wells cover an area inhabited by approximately 300,000 people,

·        12 waste water treatment plants completely ran out of fuel during the reporting period. The daily pumping of 40,000 – 50,000 m3 of untreated or partially treated waste water into the sea continued due to the inability of the plants to operate at full capacity. 

·        25 waste water treatment plants have just 500 litres of fuel reserves left, which is sufficient for just 5 days. There is an urgent need for further quantities of fuel in case of power failures, as there is a serious risk of flooding. This risk coincides with the summer and increased beach activity in Gaza; therefore waste water dumping at sea needs to be halted immediately because of environmental health. 

·        85% of CMWU vehicles stopped working during the reporting period, and  CMWU was unable to manage maintenance and supervision of its networks.

·        The IOF continued to prevent delivery of equipment, water pumps, and electrical tools required to operate the drinking water reservoirs and waste water plants and that the CMWU needs to operate efficiently.

 

The Water and Sewage Department in Gaza City:

The Water and Sewage Department in Gaza city needs 30,000 litres a month to operate at full capacity. The Department received diesel from CMWU six weeks ago In addition, the Department received an additional 9,000 litres of diesel from UNRWA ten days ago.

Sa’ad Al-Deen Al-Atbash, the Department Director, told PCHR, “There are 40 reservoirs in Gaza city. Two operate on diesel while the other 38 operate on electricity, including 30 reservoirs with electricity generators that are used when there are power cuts. In addition to shortages of spare parts, the reservoirs now have very sparse fuel reserves.” PCHR notes that the Gaza Strip is suffering power cuts 6-8 a day on average. In the case of a complete power outage, the fuel available at the Department will operate the generators for a total of 8 hours, after which some 50% of Gaza city residents will be without water.

Mr. Al-Atbash also stated that: “Regarding waste water pumps, there are 9 pumps in Gaza city, in addition to the treatment basins and Al-Sheikh Radwan pool. They all operate on electricity and have electricity generators. There are shortages of appropriate spare parts, and we have continual fuel shortages to contend with as well. Treatment plants on the coast have run out of fuel, and therefore been unable to operate. This has resulted in waste water being pumped directly into the sea which means the loss of huge quantities of water that could have been used to replenish underground water resources.” 

 

Garbage:

The fuel crisis has also negatively impacted on garbage collection services. Piles of garbage gathered in streets, markets, and populated areas, causing an immediate environmental risk. 

 

·        Gaza Municipality:

All the vehicles belonging to Gaza municipalities stopped due to fuel shortages. According to the municipality, they need 50- 55 thousand litres of diesel and additional 10 thousands litres of benzene to operate at full capacity. The last time the municipality received fuel was in April, when it received reduced quantities of fuel, amounting to 12,000 litres of diesel, from UNRWA .

According to engineer Hussein Salman Abu Zeid, the director of the Garage and Emergency Directorate in Gaza municipality, there are 156 garbage dumpsters in the municipality. All these vehicles stopped 10 days ago due to fuel shortages. The municipality crews normally collect 1,000 tons of garbage/day and transport it to central garbage dumps in Johr Al-Dik and Wadi Gaza areas. Abu Zeid warned that: “The continued paralysis of the municipality work, particularly collecting and removing garbage, is threatening to cause an environmental crisis.

 

·        Rafah Municipality:

On April 17, Rafah municipality announced the reduction of its basic municipal services due to shortages of fuel. Hamid Dheir, the director of Health and Environment Department in Rafah municipality, stated that the municipality had reduced its garbage collection services. On April 22, the municipality received 500 litres of l, which was sufficient to operate 10 out of the 22 vehicles that the municipality owns. This fuel was used for vehicles to collect garbage. According to Dr. Dheir, Rafah municipality needs 330 litres of diesel per day to operate its garbage collection services.   

In the Water and Sewage Department, fuel shortages led to delays in providing local residents with water. Local residents had access to water only once every 4 or 5 days because of the Department’s inability to continually operate the 8 water reservoirs in the governorate. Engineer Farid Sha’aban said “The sewage water service and networks maintenance have almost ceased to function because we do not have the diesel required to operate properly. Also the work of the three waste water pumping plants and of the two oxidization plants has partially stopped for the same reason.”

 

Jabalia Al-Nazla municipality:

On April 20, Jabalia Al-Nazla municipality announced that its work and services provided to locals had completely stopped due to lack of fuel. The municipality warned of huge health risks to local residents, due to the accumulation of garbage in front of houses, in streets, and public and private institutions, including hospitals and clinics. 

 

Education Sector:

During the reporting period, the majority of universities, as well as many school, in the Gaza Strip announced the suspension of study, as a result of the fuel crisis. Students, teachers and administrative staff were all struggling to reach the universities, and absenteeism rates were between 20 – 50% .

In Gaza city, the Islamic University, Al-Aqsa University, Al-Azhar University, Al-Quds Open University, the University of Palestine, and the Community College of Applied Science and Technology all suspended classes due to lack of transport for staff and students. 

Sources from the Islamic University stated that the university was obliged to suspend classes due to increasing absenteeism. This disrupted classes for some 19,000 students, plus 600 academics and administrators employed by the university. Al-Azhar University of Gaza closed its gates and suspended the study of some 19,000 students, while Al-Aqsa University was obliged to suspend classes for 14,000 students most of whom reside in the middle areas of the Gaza Strip, and could not travel to their classes. 

Schools across the Gaza Strip, including government; UNRWA and private, schools, witnessed the absence of thousands of students and teachers throughout the reporting period. Student absenteeism at schools across Gaza fluctuated between 10- 30% out of a total of 448,000 students enrolled in Gaza Strip schools.