Services in Gaza’s hospitals may soon be disrupted as supplies of emergency fuel run out, a human rights group and health authorities in the territory are warning.
Some 35,000 liters of Qatari-funded fuel were delivered to Gaza in October, increasing the availability of electricity to up to 11 hours per day.
But the Qatari fuel stock is only enough to keep three turbines at Gaza’s aging power plant running for six months at most, and there is increased demand during winter.
Gaza’s hospitals rely on backup generators during regular blackouts, and fuel stocks used for this purpose are running out, the health ministry in the territory stated this week.
Disruption of medical care will have “dangerous repercussions” for patients, particularly for 800 kidney patients treated with dialysis machines, the human rights group Al Mezan stated. It would also interrupt the use of diagnostic devices and the scheduling of surgical operations, putting lives at risk.
While stressing that “the Israeli siege is the root cause of all the humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip,” Al Mezan said that Palestinian authorities must go beyond managing the fuel crisis and increase health sector capacity.
During the current cold snap children with bronchitis are being turned away from some hospitals, while others are doubling up two ill children on one bed, the right group noted.
Israel conditions delivery of Qatari funds
Meanwhile the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this week that Israel is conditioning the delivery of Qatari funds to Gaza on the nature of protests along the eastern boundary of the territory on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has calculated that delivery of cash to Gaza would be too politically costly ahead of elections scheduled for 9 April.
The paper paraphrases an unnamed senior Hamas official stating that “withholding the money would prompt Hamas to launch airborne firebombs and send forces to damage the border fence.”
Hamas figures have publicly stated that the protests, launched under the banner of the Great March of Return on 30 March, will go on so long as Israel’s air, land and sea blockade, imposed in 2007, remains in place.
As Palestinians reel from half a billion dollars in aid cuts by the Trump administration in Washington, the World Food Program suspended or reduced aid to 27,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza this month.
A further 165,000 Palestinians, including 110,000 people in Gaza, are receiving 80 percent of their usual amount.
“The cuts were decided upon after a gradual reduction in donations over the past nearly four years, with US cuts having the biggest effect,” Al Jazeera reported.
The State Department-funded USAID is set to terminate its operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the end of this month, leaving major infrastructure projects incomplete.
NPR reported on Thursday: “In the West Bank, a nearly complete multimillion-dollar sewage network in Jericho will have to be buried under asphalt and abandoned, and a $1.4 million school facility under construction in the Bethlehem area will be left behind, according to a recent document from the US Agency for International Development.”
A bill signed into law by Trump last fall effectively bars bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority, whose security forces are trained by the US and cooperate with Israel.
The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018, which goes into effect on 31 January, would disqualify the PA from receiving US aid “unless it agrees to pay court judgments of sometimes up to hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of American victims of Palestinian attacks,” according to the Associated Press.
The Trump administration was “scrambling” to preserve this aid – which amounted to $61 million in 2017 alone – after realizing it would be threatened by the new law but it is unlikely to succeed as a government shutdown stretches into its 28th day.
Aid groups “delegitimized”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated this week that aid operations have been undermined by campaigns of delegitimization by Israeli civil society groups “with the apparent support of the Israeli government.”
Delegitimization efforts “allege violations of counter-terrorism legislation and international law, or political action against Israel.”
The UN body said that the delivery of humanitarian assistance is negatively affected as aid groups allocate time and resources to address baseless allegations, while donors defund “certain activities to avoid risks.”
Israeli banks impede fund transfers and close accounts while venues in the country blacklist certain organizations.
All of the 41 organizations which participated in a survey by the Association of International Development Agencies reported that they had been affected by delegitimization efforts.
Nearly a quarter of the groups said that they were forced to alter, suspend or terminate programs, while roughly the same number “said they had faced threats of, or actual, legal or administrative actions against them.”
Almost half of the groups “indicated that the campaign had undermined their funding for certain types of activities.”
Coping strategies have included appointing staff to “comply with additional donor requirements or risk management,” diverting resources “that would have been otherwise channeled to the provision of assistance.”
The delegitimization campaigns have exacerbated already difficult operating conditions, particularly Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian staff.
Additionally, humanitarian personnel entering and leaving Gaza are subjected to searches and interviews by both Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
Israel also maintains a list of “dual use” items which it restricts from being imported into Gaza, “particularly those required for water and sanitation projects.”
Structures donated by international bodies have been seized by Israeli occupation forces in Area C of the West Bank – some 60 percent of the territory under full Israeli military control.
Palestinian human rights defenders are subjected to harassment, threats and detention by Israeli occupation forces and raids on their offices.
“Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organizations operating in the [West Bank and Gaza Strip] have faced several Israeli laws and administrative decisions targeting their right to freedom of expression, the right to access funding, and public funding eligibility,” OCHA added.
Israel doubles down on deportation order
Israeli law allows the interior ministry to deny any non-citizen entry to Israel or the West Bank “on political grounds.”
Israel is attempting to deport Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Jerusalem office, claiming that he promotes a boycott of the country. The state defended its decision to deport the American national in response to his appeal of the order.
“Shakir disguises himself as a human rights activist but most of his activity is dedicated to promoting boycotts against Israel and its residents. Those who act against the state should not enter its gates,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister tasked with combating the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in support of Palestinian rights, stated this week.
Human Rights Watch responded by saying that the organization does not take any position for or against the boycott movement.
“We defend the right of individuals to act nonviolently to promote their views, including participation in boycotts,” the group stated.
“It is worrisome that a government ministry of a democratic state monitors the activities of a foreign citizen who lawfully resides in the country but criticizes its policy.”