Gaza is three days away from a deadly humanitarian crisis unless Israel promptly restores fuel and electricity to the densely populated area after its offensive to free an abducted soldier, the United Nations aid chief warned on Thursday.
“They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, who also urged the Palestinians to free the soldier and clamp down on militants firing rockets into Israel.
Without clean water in the hot summer weather, “we would in days see a major humanitarian crisis,” he said. Military action targeting innocent civilians violates international humanitarian law, he added.
“I am confident that neither of the two want to see a massive increase in mortality in the Gaza,” where children make up about half of the area’s 1.4 million people, Egeland told a small group of reporters.
At the heart of the crisis, he said, was Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant, which supplies about 40 percent of the area’s electricity. The remaining power comes from Israel.
An estimated 130 Gaza wells require electricity to pump water, and while some have backup pumps that run on diesel fuel, Israel has allowed no fuel to flow into Gaza for four days, leaving it dependent on emergency supplies expected to last another three days.
Egeland, who as Norway’s deputy foreign minister helped orchestrate secret 1992 talks between Israel and the Palestinians that led to the Oslo accords, lamented that both sides in the conflict appeared intent on perpetuating an endless ‘cycle of violence’.
“They are locked in a situation where they do their utmost to cut the bridges between them and create hatred that bodes ill for the future,” he said. “Why do they do things that are so counter to their own interests?”
Red Cross looks to send medical supplies to Gaza
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), concerned about escalating Middle East violence, called on Friday for Israel to allow urgent medical supplies into Gaza.
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC spokeswoman, said that Israel is obliged under international law – including the Geneva Conventions – to ensure that humanitarian supplies reach Palestinian civilians.
Israel Air Force fighter jets pounded Gaza on Friday, setting ablaze the Interior Ministry office of the Hamas-led Palestinian government in a widening military … [campaign].
“We are negotiating with Israel to allow in humanitarian aid. These are essential medicines and medical supplies for the Palestinian Red Crescent,” Krimitsas told Reuters.
“We are concerned at the humanitarian consequences of the escalation of violence and closure of crossing points to Gaza, especially the Karni crossing,” she added.
The ICRC is also anxious to deliver food packages and household items for Palestinian families, some of whom have had their homes destroyed, according to Krimitsas.
“Under international law, Israel has the obligation to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza. It also has the duty to ensure that the vital supplies for the population, including food and medicine, are adequate,” she said.
Israeli strikes have knocked out bridges, water systems and a major power transformer in the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million Palestinians.
Hospitals, hard-hit by the loss of electricity, have to use generators for power, consuming precious fuel, Krimitsas said.
“We are worried about the fuel stocks. Palestinian authorities have estimated that they have enough for about 7 to 10 days,” she added