Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Severe Shortages Stymie Life in Gaza ; Groups Petitioned Israel's Supreme Court to Reopen Gaza Crossings to Supplies

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Severe Shortages Stymie Life in Gaza ; Groups Petitioned Israel's Supreme Court to Reopen Gaza Crossings to Supplies

Article excerpt

As the Palestinian conflict with Israel over a kidnapped soldier drags on, most crossings out of Gaza have been closed. Hardly a trickle of goods and people goes in or out. At least half the electricity has been knocked out, slowing sanitation, sewage treatment, refrigeration, communication, and transportation.

The wheels of everyday living in Gaza, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, are grinding to a halt so rapidly, particularly in the absence of sufficient power for everything from water pumps to cell- phone towers, that people like Faysal Shawa feel as if "we are going back to the way people lived 100 years ago."

Mr. Shawa, a businessman, says most people can forget about using a computer, checking e-mail, or sending a fax: Writing must be done by hand, or on a manual typewriter. Forget buying enough food - even basics like milk and meat - to last your family for a few days: Even if you can afford it, you won't be able to refrigerate it, since the power is off more often than it is on.

And if you're like him, a successful industrialist who can afford the high cost of a private generator, you only turn on the lights in the innermost chambers of your house, away from the windows, so as to not show off to your neighbors who are spending their evenings in the dark.

"This has become a real social issue," says Shawa, who runs several companies in construction, asphalt and pharmaceuticals. "My generator is soundproof.... But you can't run it all day .... You are always afraid that there won't be enough fuel in two or three days, because [the Israelis] are not letting enough in."

Shawa is one of many Palestinians whose affidavits were compiled and sent Tuesday to the Israeli Supreme Court, as part of a petition filed by six local human rights organizations demanding that the crossings in Gaza be opened "to allow for the steady and regular supply of fuel, food, medicine, and equipment, including spare parts needed to operate generators."

Since Israel bombed Gaza's primary power plant on June 27 - following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier - Palestinians are redistributing what power remains and relying on generators. But that requires diesel fuel, and while Gaza needs about 1 million liters a day for the next two weeks in order to make up for severe shortages, only about 400,000 liters come through on days when the Nahal Oz passage is open. The passage is the only way to get fuel from outside, and it has intermittently been closed by the Israeli Army.

"There's no apparent justification for cutting off fuel supplies, and there is no impact on security on this issue because the transfer of fuel does not involve direct contact between Israelis and Palestinians," says Sari Bashi, a lawyer who directs Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization that represent Gazans in cases arguing for freedom of movement for goods and people. …

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