The Gaza Strip, with a population of 2.2 million, is a narrow territory stretching 41km (25 miles) in length and 10km in width, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, and Egypt.
Initially, under Egyptian control, Gaza came under Israeli occupation during the 1967 Middle East war. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and evacuated about 7,000 settlers from the area.
Currently, the Gaza Strip is under the governance of Hamas, a militant Islamist group. In 2007, after a violent rift, Hamas ousted the forces aligned with the then-ruling Palestinian Authority (PA).
Subsequently, Israel and Egypt have imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, citing security concerns as the basis for their blockade.
Hamas, categorized as a terrorist group by the US, EU, UK, and other nations, has engaged in multiple conflicts with Israel since assuming power in Gaza. It has been responsible for launching numerous rockets at Israel and permitting other militant groups to carry out deadly attacks.
On 7 October, a significant surge of violence erupted as hundreds of Hamas militants initiated an unprecedented assault on southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of over 1,200 individuals and the abduction of numerous hostages taken to Gaza.
In retaliation, Israel responded with a series of air and artillery strikes on Gaza, causing casualties to more than 1,000 Palestinians. Concurrently, Israeli forces are amassing for a potential ground operation.
Israel’s prime minister has firmly expressed the intention to defeat Hamas in this conflict, envisioning transformative changes in the Middle East as an outcome.
As a countermeasure to Hamas’s assault, Israel’s defense minister implemented a “complete siege” of Gaza on 9 October, enforcing a cessation of electricity, food, fuel, and overall closure of services.
Furthermore, Israel’s infrastructure minister halted the Strip’s water supply, aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where 80% of the population already required international aid.
Israel says it is bombing Hamas targets across Gaza in response to the group’s assault
On 11 October, Gaza’s only power plant ceased functioning due to a fuel shortage, leaving hospitals struggling with a surge of injured individuals relying on backup generators. Additionally, over 600,000 people were left without access to clean water as Israel disconnected the water supply. The local water pumps and sewage systems also require fuel to operate.
The closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing with Israel has led to a depletion of food stocks, with approximately one-third of shops in Gaza reporting a shortage of essential items. The UN has reported that most stores have adequate food supplies for about two weeks.
More than 200,000 people have been displaced, either fleeing for their safety or due to the destruction of their homes in airstrikes. The majority have sought shelter in UN schools.
Even before the current conflict, power cuts were a daily occurrence in Gaza, with households receiving electricity for an average of 13 hours per day, as per UN reports. Gaza was acquiring nearly two-thirds of its power from Israel, while the rest was generated by the Gaza Power Plant (GPP). However, this combined supply fell short of meeting the demand.
To cope with frequent blackouts, both service providers and households relied on backup generators. Unfortunately, these generators are often unreliable due to their dependence on scarce fuel and spare parts, which face import restrictions because Israel classifies them as having a “dual-use” civil and military capacity.
Civilians in Gaza have limited prospects of leaving to escape the conflict due to border closures. Israel has indefinitely closed the Erez crossing in the north of the Strip, and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing in the south was also shut down temporarily on 9 and 10 October due to Israeli airstrikes near the gate on the Palestinian side.
Gaza’s Lone Power Plant Halts Operation Due to Fuel Shortage
On October 11, Gaza’s sole power plant ceased operations as it ran out of fuel, causing hospitals to rely on backup generators for critical cases. Some hospitals, with limited reserves, are expected to exhaust their fuel supply within days.
Furthermore, more than 600,000 people have been left without drinkable water due to Israel’s decision to cut off the water supply. Local water pumps and sewage systems also require fuel to function.
The closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing with Israel has led to depleting food stocks, with a third of Gaza’s shops reporting shortages in commodities. The UN states that most shops have around two weeks’ worth of food.
Additionally, at least 200,000 people have been displaced, either fleeing for safety or due to the destruction of their homes in air strikes. Most of them seek refuge in UN schools.
Frequent Power Cuts and Overcrowding
Even before the present conflict, power cuts were a common occurrence in Gaza, where households received electricity for only about 13 hours per day on average, according to the UN.
Gaza purchased nearly two-thirds of its power from Israel, with the rest being generated by the Gaza Power Plant (GPP). However, this combined supply met less than half of the demand.
To cope with blackouts, service providers and households often rely on backup generators. However, these generators are unreliable due to their dependence on scarce fuel and spare parts, subject to import restrictions by Israel, classifying them as “dual-use” items with both civil and military applications.
Border Restrictions and Limited Access to Basic Needs
The closure of borders and restrictions on the movement of goods has led to significant challenges for the population. Israel and Egypt have tightly controlled the entry and exit from Gaza, citing security concerns.
Gaza has faced severe limitations on agricultural land and fishing, hindering local food production. The Israeli perimeter fence restricts farming within 100m and limits access to fishing in the Mediterranean Sea.
Water Shortages and Health Struggles
Gaza’s public health facilities are overwhelmed and face frequent power cuts and shortages of medical supplies and equipment. Many essential services and specialized treatments are not readily available.
Clean drinking water is a pressing issue, with 95% of Gaza’s population lacking access to it. Tap water is salty and polluted, rendering it unfit for consumption.
The ongoing conflict has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, with severe shortages of essential supplies, inadequate healthcare, and challenges in ensuring basic needs for the population. Immediate action is necessary to address these pressing issues and alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza.