Israel on Thursday started to reduce electricity supply to the Gaza Strip as part of pressure on the civilian population to force armed groups stop rocket attacks against Israel.
The reduction will be 1.5 megawatts out of the 120 megawatts that Israel directly sells to Gaza. Last week, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition by 10 Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations against the power cutoff.
Isaam Younis, director of the Gaza-based al-Mezan center for Human rights, said the cuts will be applied on three electricity feeders that transfer power from Israel to the Gaza Strip over the coming three weeks.
Gaza's only power station produces 80 megawatts of electricity when it works at full capacity. But a bombing of the plant by Israeli air force in 2006 almost halve the power plant's capacity to 50 megawatts. And the worse is that Israel restricted the fuel delivery to the station and made it works at smaller capacity, producing less than 40 megawatts.
Israel also reduced fuel shipments to Gaza in response to the ongoing rocket-fire by armed Palestinian groups against Israel.
The new Israeli measures "amount to collective punishment of the civilian population and violate Israel's obligations under the laws of war," said the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)today.
In a letter sent to the press, HRW noted that the new reductions "add to a series of Israeli measures since 2006 that have caused a 20 percent shortfall in Gaza's electricity needs." In the winter, Gaza needs 240 megawatts of power.
"Israel views restricting fuel and electricity to Gaza as a way to pressure Palestinian armed groups to stop their rocket and suicide attacks," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "But the cuts are seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed groups, and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war."
But HRW has also condemned the "indiscriminate Palestinian rocket and suicide bomb attacks against Israeli civilians," considering them "war crimes." But on the other hand, the group called on Israel not to adopt those measures violating humanitarian law while suppressing the attacks.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2008)