UN warns of collapse of services in Gaza unless fuel gets in
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UN warns of collapse of services in Gaza unless fuel gets in

Humanitarian affairs agency calls on Palestinians not to cause further damage to Kerem Shalom crossing, says alternative supply required to run hospitals, pump water, treat sewage

Palestinian security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority stand at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on May 13, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority stand at the gate of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on May 13, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The United Nations said Sunday night an alternative way of getting fuel to Gaza must be found urgently, warning of dwindling supplies needed to run hospitals, pick up garbage, pump water and treat sewage.

The appeal late Sunday by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) came two days after hundreds of Palestinians destroyed the fuel terminal at the main cargo crossing with Israel, Kerem Shalom, the only entry point for fuel to Gaza. Officials say it could take months to repair the damage.

The agency said “the impact of the destruction of the fuel and gas lines is already being felt,” noting that fuel reserves of hospitals, waste collection services and water and sanitation facilities would last only a few days.

It noted that in light of the severe electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, which currently depends almost entirely on Israel for its 2-4 hours of power a day, the UN “has been providing over 220 critical health, water and sanitation, and solid waste facilities with 936,000 liters (250,000 gallons) of emergency fuel per month to run backup generators and vehicles.”

The disruption of supply at Kerem Shalom now puts those services in danger.

“To avoid a collapse of essential services, an alternative arrangement for the entry of fuel is urgently needed until the Kerem Shalom fuel pipelines are repaired,” the agency said.

It also said the lack of cooking gas and fuel would likely cause shortages in bread and other prepared food.

Gas pipes on fire at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, May 11, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Humanitarian Coordinator for the agency, Jamie McGoldrick, said, “Humanitarian operations depend on the Kerem Shalom Crossing to get assistance to those in need in Gaza. I call on demonstrators to avoid actions that negatively affect the functioning of Gaza’s main entry point for humanitarian goods and on relevant authorities to quickly repair any damage.”

Late Friday, after a large crowd of Palestinians badly damaged the fuel and gas terminal, Israel closed the crossing and said it would likely take weeks or months to repair the damage.

The army said Saturday that its recommendation to shutter the crossing, which ordinarily sees hundreds of cargo-bearing trucks pass into Gaza each day, was approved by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Friday’s vandalism at the crossing was a repeat of a similar incident on May 4, when rioters broke into the Palestinian side of the crossing and damaged pipelines carrying gas and oil into Gaza, which already suffers from a significant energy shortage.

Around 15,000 Palestinians took part in protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on Friday, in the final weekly “March of Return” before the Nakba Day events on Monday and Tuesday, when the violent demonstrations are expected to reach their peak.

Illustrative: A Palestinian truck loaded with supplies entered the southern Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah, on November 1, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

On Friday, the IDF accused Hamas of orchestrating the damage to Kerem Shalom, saying the ruling terror group was “harming the well-being of Gaza residents and paralyzing their daily life.”

The IDF said violent protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers at five major points along the border. Troops were attacked with pipe bombs, grenades, rocks, and burning tires. Rioters also attempted to sabotage “security infrastructure,” the army said.

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