The deeply unpopular Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is helping Israeli occupation authorities inflict horrendous suffering on people in the blockaded Gaza Strip, as part of a cruel and cynical political game. It is a campaign that in recent weeks has led to the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinians denied medical treatment outside Gaza – the most recent, a little girl called Yara Ismail Bakhit. Israel and Abbas are doing this with the complicity of a so-called international community that remains silent about the unfolding catastrophe. Closely allied with Israel, Abbas has long defined collaboration with its occupation forces as a “sacred” duty. This collaboration has included encouraging Israel, from the very start, to tighten its blockade of Gaza.
The decade-long siege has brought the 2 million residents caged into the territory to perhaps their most dire crisis in a period that has included successive military assaults that have killed thousands of people. On Thursday, Gaza’s only power plant shut down after emergency fuel supplies ran out. The territory is now dependent on just 70 megawatts of power supplied from Israel, a fraction of the 500 megawatts it needs each day. A “power watch” feature in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz shows that Gaza City received just three hours of electricity on Wednesday, while some areas received four hours. But with the power supply now below the all-time low it reached earlier this week, most residents face long stretches without any power at all amid the sweltering summer heat. On top of the darkness and the heat, many in Gaza face a cut off of any contact with the outside world: the PA telecom company Paltel said that internet and telephone services to thousands of customers in Gaza have been severed as generators fail.
On Wednesday, UN human rights officials emphasized that the latest power cuts “have deepened the humanitarian crisis with hospitals in precarious conditions, water shortages growing and untreated sewage being dumped into the Mediterranean.” Their warnings will likely go unheeded, just like so many in recent months, including from the International Committee of the Red Cross that said in May that Gaza was on the brink of “systemic collapse.” For months, health facilities across the territory have been in crisis and Gaza City’s main hospital has slashed vital surgeries because there isn’t enough power to run life support systems. As treatment plants fail, the territory is swimming in sewage.
Yet the European Union, which never rests from trumpeting its alleged commitment to “human rights,” has maintained a determined silence which can only be interpreted as full support for the measures inflicting such suffering on Gaza. Instead, the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv as well as a top UN official, touted Abbas’ authority for collaborating with Israel to increase the electricity supply to Jenin, a town in the northern occupied West Bank. Finally, on Thursday, after months of ignoring Gaza, the EU, as part of the so-called Quartet, issued a vague statement of “concern” that said nothing about Israel’s responsibilities.
The UN experts emphasized that while Israel’s power cuts were nominally implemented at the request of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Israel remains legally responsible. Previously, senior UN officials have attempted to play down Israel’s responsibility, shifting the blame to an internal dispute between the Abbas-run PA in Ramallah, and Hamas authorities that control the interior of Gaza. In April, the PA told Israel it would no longer pay the full bill for electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, as part of Abbas’ campaign to oust Hamas by inflicting additional hardship on the population in Gaza. Over the last month, Israel has sharply reduced the power it supplies to Gaza – the territory’s main source of electricity. “Israel, as the occupier controlling the entry and exit of goods and people, bore the primary responsibility for the deterioration of the situation,” the UN human rights experts said on Wednesday, according to a UN press release. Human rights groups previously affirmed that it is illegal for Israel, as the occupying power, to cut the electricity to Gaza no matter what Abbas says. Despite the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept the Palestinian Authority’s “cruel plan to further reduce the power supply to Gaza,” B’Tselem said last month, the situation in Gaza “is the result of Israel’s handiwork, achieved by its decade-long implementation of a brutal policy.”
Three-year-old Yara Ismail Bakhit, who suffered from a heart condition, died because she was denied a medical transfer out of Gaza. Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, said on Thursday that the toddler, from the southern town of Khan Younis, is the 16th person to die in recent weeks because they weren’t able to secure a medical transfer.
Yara’s death is another sacrifice to Abbas’ campaign against the population in Gaza; it came about due to the delays his health ministry is imposing on requests for medical transfers to Israeli or West Bank treatment facilities. The Ramallah health ministry must approve such requests before Israel does because it pays for any treatment provided in Israeli or West Bank hospitals.