UN Urges Israel and Palestinians to Solve Gaza Crisis, Israel Adds Anti-Tunnel Barrier

A general view shows houses of Palestinian refugee families during a power outage in the al Shateaa refugee camp, northern Gaza City, Gaza Strip, 05 August 2017. (Photo: MOHAMMED SABER/EPA/REX/Shutterstock)

The United Nations human rights office appealed to Israel, Palestinian Authority and Hamas to resolve their conflicts resulting in two million people in Gaza Strip living deprived of electricity, vital medical care and clean water.

“We are deeply concerned about the steady deterioration in the humanitarian conditions and the protection of human rights in Gaza,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva. “Israel, the State of Palestine and the authorities in Gaza are not meeting their obligations to promote and protect the rights of the residents of Gaza.”

The Gaza health ministry announced that about 40 percent of essential medicines have run out, especially for patients with cancer, cystic fibrosis and kidney failure. Shamdasani said that in soaring summer temperatures, the electricity has often been provided for less than four hours a day. “This has a grave impact on the provision of essential health, water and sanitation services,” she said. Shamsadani called on Israel to immediately lift the blockade on the territory, enforced by the Jewish state and Egypt since 2007 to prevent the entry of weaponry and explosives into the Strip.

The electricity crisis started in late June, when president of Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, officially announced that Ramallah will no longer subsidize Gaza with payments for electricity supplies, released prisoners and salaries of PA employees in the Strip. This move further aggravated the difficult situation in the Strip, where citizens got only three to four hours of electricity a day. Greater crisis was slightly aleviated by provisions from Egypt, negotiated by Abbas’ political opponent and former prominent Fatah party member in Gaza Strip, Mohammad Dahlan.

Halting the payments has been the latest move from Abbas’ Fatah party ruling the West Bank, aimed at pressuring hardline Islamist Hamas into relinquishing the grasp they have held over Gaza after ousting all Fatah members in a brief 2007 civil war with security forces loyal to Abbas. Following the conflict, Egypt and Israel responded with immediate air, naval and land blockade of the Strip which is still in place.

Hamas authorities in Gaza blame the Palestinian Authority for the near humanitarian disaster they are facing, while Abbas blames the group’s refusal to end its control of Gaza.

“Fatah does not accept and will not let the Palestinian National Authority become an ATM to finance this coup which destroys the possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state,” said a Fatah statement issued on Thursday.

Israeli and Palestinian media repeatedly reported that Hamas is in fact capable of paying for its monthly electricity bill. According to the estimates by Israel and Palestinian Authority, Hamas collects approximately 100 million shekels in taxes on a monthly basis. The electricity bill is 25 million shekels – 13 million shekels less than what they spend monthly on military purposes.

Anti-tunnel barrier

Hamas’ military activities and millions of dollars of foreign aid spent on underground tunnels for smuggling weapons and Hamas militants into Israeli territory have been a great source of grievances for Jerusalem, prompting the authorities to commence the construction of a border wall designed to stop tunnels between the two sides. On Thursday, Israel warned Gaza not to try to foil the construction, saying that security forces mapped militant emplacements hidden under civilian sites in the Palestinian enclave that may be attacked in any new war.

The threat followed a rocket launch from Gaza on Tuesday, unclaimed by militant groups operating in the Strip. Israel retaliated with an air strike on a Hamas facility.

Israeli drills seen at a constructions site, near kibbutz Nir Am on the Israeli side of the border with northern Gaza neighborhoods (background), 16 August 2017. Photo by ATEF SAFADI/EPA/REX/Shutterstock (8999789g)

The underground wall equipped with sensors was planted along the Israeli side of the 60 km long border. New details about the $1.1 billion project were published by the Israeli media on Thursday, saying that the construction would be completed within two years under an accelerated schedule. According to reports, the military also plans to build an underwater barrier in the Mediterranean to prevent infiltration from Gaza by sea.