An Israel Air Force general charged with all aerial ground support during the campaign in Gaza denied Tuesday that Israel targeted the Gaza Strip’s only power plant earlier in the day.
The power plant was hit by a strike in the early hours of Tuesday, knocking out electricity through the Strip and setting off a massive fire that sent gigantic plumes of black smoke over much of Gaza throughout the day.
“The State of Israel did not attack Gaza’s power plant,” said Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen, the commander of IAF Air Support and Helicopter Air Division.
“It has no interest (in that),” he added. “We transfer to them the electricity, we transfer in the gas, we transfer in the food in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster. So we attacked the power plant?”
The general said it was possible the plant had been hit by Israel by mistake.
Munitions, he said, can sometimes “skip,” and strike targets unintentionally, as occurred during 2008-9’s Operation Cast Lead.
“The matter is under investigation,” he added.
The fire forced a complete shutdown of the power plant, plunging all of Gaza into darkness. The bombing was widely interpreted as a premeditated offensive move by Israel.
“With the power station gone, all of Gaza is going to collapse,” Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Gaza’s Al Azhar University told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re trying to put direct pressure on the Palestinians.”
Amnesty International was quoted in The Guardian as saying that the alleged strike constituted “collective punishment against the Palestinians.” The director of the 50-megawatt plant, Mohammed al-Sharif, said it would require a full year to repair.
Rosen, though, said he would not be surprised if the final results of the investigation revealed that Gaza militants were behind the explosion. “They fire on themselves,” he said, citing the misfired Hamas rockets on Monday that reportedly killed eight children in Shati refugee camp.
Going still farther back in his memory, Rosen said that the incident reminded him of the destruction of the el-Bader Flour Mill in Gaza, which Judge Richard Goldstone, in his report on Cast Lead, said was hit intentionally by Israel “for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population.”
“I was involved in that investigation,” he said. The 500-pound bomb brought to the attention of journalists, he added, “was hauled” to the mill after the fact. There was no premeditated airstrike on the Strip’s main source of flour but rather, the IDF concluded, tank shells fired during combat.
“It is staging,” he said.
An army spokesman confirmed that the plant was not targeted but said the matter was still under investigation.