The humanitarian crisis of sealed-off Gaza is getting worse: blackouts have brought global attention to the siege wrecking 1.5 million lives, with medicines, fuel and food stopped at the border for months. Civilians must be protected on all sides -- this is not the way to make anyone more secure.
Were running an emergency global campaign to international, European and Arab leaders, calling on them to step in, stop the siege and help broker a ceasefire. Well deliver the petition when we reach 150,000 signatures - so please add your name below, then spread the word:
To the United Nations, the European Union, the Quartet & the Arab League: We demand that you end the blockade and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, ensure the free flow of supplies by land, sea or air, and help to broker the ceasefire which civilians on both sides desperately need.
Gaza- End the Siege
(Special Thanks to Dear ~Vastiel for linking this petition... )
Now, Gazans bought up batteries and candles, as well as basic foods ahead of the shutdown.
Lights have gone out in Gaza City after the territory's only power plant was closed down due to a fuel shortage.
Darkness descended on Gaza as the second of the plant's two working turbines was switched off on the third day of a crippling Israeli blockade of the territory.
Sunday's shutdown has prompted fears of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians said the worst affected could be the health sector, with hospitals failing to provide services in the absence of electricity.
"At least 800,000 people are now in darkness," Derar Abu Sissi, general director of the plant, said.
"The catastrophe will affect hospitals, medical clinics, water wells, houses, factories - all aspects of life."
The Israeli foreign ministry said the diversion of fuel from domestic power generators to other uses was "wholly a Hamas decision".
Arye Mekel, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said that the power plant shutdown was unnecessary. "They have an interest in exaggerating," he said.
Power outages have become commonplace in the Gaza Strip in recent months after Israel declared the area a "hostile entity" and began restricting fuel supplies.
Ahead of the shutdown, residents bought up batteries and candles, as well as basic foods like rice, flour and cooking oil. Bakeries stopped operating because they did not have power or flour.
UNRWA, the UN organisation supporting Palestinian refugees, warned the shortages would drastically affect hospitals, sewage treatment plants and water facilities.
"The logic of this defies basic humanitarian standards," Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesman, said.
Most international actors in the region believe there already is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs John Holmes, who said at a press conference at UNHQ in New York on Friday that "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be justified, even by those rocket attacks".
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed particular concern, in a statement issued later on Friday through his spokesperson, about the "decision by Israel to close the crossing points in between Gaza and Israel used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such action cuts off the population from much-needed fuel supplies used to pump water and generate electricity to homes and hospitals".
The UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories, John Dugard, also issued a much sharper statement on Friday, saying that Israel must have foreseen the loss of life and injury to many nearby civilians when it targeted the Ministry of Interior building in Gaza City.
This, and the killings of other Palestinians during the week, plus the closures, "raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its Commitment to the peace process", Dugard said. He said it violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law: that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets.
The UN has said Israel should not collectively punish Gaza's population while responding to security threats, and criticized Israel's decision to close border crossings into Gaza, preventing aid deliveries to the 1.5 million people living in the territory, saying on Saturday that the move could provoke a humanitarian crisis.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, also urged an immediate end to violence in Gaza and Palestinian sniper and rocket attacks into Israel.
While Zeev Boim, an Israeli cabinet minister, declared that rather than condemning Israel's move, the UN should condemn Palestinian rocket attacks. Adding "I don't hear the UN's voice," he said.
Israel has continued to push ahead with its military offensive against Palestinian fighters in both Gaza and the West Bank in recent days.
Late on Sunday, an Israeli air raid killed at least one Palestinian and critically wounded another in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas officials said that the target was a group of fighters who launched makeshift rockets into southern Israel.
Around 230 such rockets and mortars have been fired over the border since Tuesday, according to the Israeli military. At least 36 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire in the past week.
Patients at risk:
Dr Medhat Abbas, head of the crisis management unit at the health ministry in Gaza, said that electricity from generators would only be available for a few more hours at the Al-Nasser children's hospital.
"These patients and these children are facing their destiny and they will die soon," he told Al Jazeera.
Palestinians fear the power cut could be disastrous for the health sector [AFP]
"They escaped from their poor houses were they have very cold weather ... The families brought them here to be saved in the incubator. Now the incubator and the nursery will be out of electricity.
"What sort of humanitarian law is this?"
He said the blackout would also deprive cancer and intensive care patients of their treatment as well as spoiling blood and vaccines that were being stored.
Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland in Gaza said that it was not only power generation that would be affected.
"It also means no fuel for the generators that fuel the water pumps - a lot of the water in Gaza is deep beneath the surface, and it has to be pumped to the surface - so no fuel can also mean no water."
Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer be generating any electricity at all.
We have asked the Israeli government to reverse its decision and to supply fuel to operate the power plant, Dr. Kittaneh said. We have talked to the Israeli humanitarian coordination in their Ministry of Energy [National Infrastructure]. We say this is totally Israels responsibility, and that reducing the fuel supplies until the plant had to shut down will affect not only the electrical system but the water supply, and the entire infrastructure in Gaza everything.
After months of increasingly harsh sanctions, Israel imposed a total closure on the Strip's border crossings, even preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Israeli government says the closure is punishment for an ongoing barrage of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip.
180 fuel stations have shut down after Gaza residents to buy gas for cooking.
A Palestinian economist Hasan Abu Ramadan said the current humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip will be deepened by the blockade on fuel and food supplies. He warned that Gaza Strip could go from a situation of deep poverty to all out famine, disease, and malnutrition.
Abu Ramadan said that more than 80% of the Strip's 1.5 million residents have been surviving with the help of food aid from international organizations such as UNRWA for Palestinian refugees.
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