Gaza’s authorities say ‘all basic life services’ are at risk after Israel’s ‘total siege’ of the Hamas-run enclave.
Gaza’s power authority has said the blockaded enclave’s sole power plant will run out of fuel within hours, leaving the Palestinian territory without electricity after Israel cut off supplies in retaliation to the recent attacks by Hamas, the armed group that runs Gaza.
Palestinian Energy Authority Chairman Thafer Melhem told Voice of Palestine radio on Wednesday that the plant would shut down in the afternoon in Gaza, where about 2.3 million people live in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
“This threatens to plunge the Strip into complete darkness and make it impossible to continue providing all basic life services, all of which depend on electricity, and it will not be possible to operate them partially with generators in light of the prevention of fuel supplies from Rafah Gate,” said a statement issued by Gaza’s authorities on Wednesday.
“This catastrophic situation creates a humanitarian crisis for all residents of the Gaza Strip,” it said.
The statement referred to Israel’s retaliation “as the dirtiest crime of collective punishment against defenceless civilians in modern history”.
It called on the international community to move quickly to stop “this crime against humanity and this multi-form mass murder”.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said “the fuel stock to operate the generators in the Gaza Strip hospitals will end tomorrow, Thursday, which will exacerbate the disastrous conditions in the hospitals”.
All of Gaza’s crossings are closed, making it impossible to bring in fuel for the power plant or the generators on which residents and hospitals have long relied.
Israel cut off electricity supply to Gaza on Monday as part of what it called a “total siege” in response to a mass infiltration by Hamas fighters into southern Israel on Saturday.
The Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip, in its current form, has been in place since June 2007. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.
On Monday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said authorities would cut electricity and block the entry of food and fuel as part of “a complete siege” on the territory.
“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza … No electricity, no food, no water, no gas – it’s all closed,” Gallant said in a video statement.
On Tuesday, Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), urged the international community “to intervene urgently to stop the aggression, allow the entry of relief materials, and restore electricity and water, because the Gaza Strip is facing a major humanitarian catastrophe”.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that it has less than two weeks’ supply of food and water to assist the more than 180,000 people who have sought refuge in its schools in Gaza.
“We’ve got supplies for 12 days for food and water. Roads are blocked, we don’t have telephone lines, we have had networks hit by air strikes. It is really difficult for us to know what’s happening,” Jennifer Austin, deputy director of the agency, said.
“We are relying on our staff, who are themselves refugees, who are going out to provide a service. It is really unprecedented situation we are facing.”