It seems surreal, but Gaza relies almost totally on its enemy, Israel, for its daily needs. Israeli forces may have withdrawn from the Strip two years ago, but they still control Gaza’s land and sea borders, and its airspace. Nothing enters or leaves without Israel’s ok.
Power and fuel supplies have been cut before in reprisal for terrorist attacks. The people of Gaza have learned to live with the uncertainty, and react with a mixture of fatalism and defiance. On the streets, the buzz of small generators is everywhere. At night, people use candles or gas lamps because power cuts are frequent. Most Gazans only have electricity for a few hours per day.
Gaza’s lone power station, still limping along after an Israeli air strike last year, shuts down often through a lack of fuel, most-recently in August. It’s Israel which supplies the fuel, but the European Union hadn’t paid the bill. Figures show that the Palestinians in Gaza use some 200 megawatts of electricity, of which about 70 percent comes via Israeli power lines. Gaza itself produces the rest.
It’s the same with water. Israeli laws dating back nearly 50 years say that all water, whether on the surface or underground, belongs to Israel. The situation is made worse by the fact that Israel has banned the construction of new water treatment plants in Gaza, despite the existing ones having been almost completely destroyed by air strikes.
It rarely rains here. About 35 million cubic metres of the precious liquid is available from the water table each year. That’s about 79 litres per person per day. Normal Western consumption is at least twice that. So Israel supplies around 80 percent of Gaza’s needs. And the Palestinians pay for it; four times as much as Jewish settlers in Gaza used to pay.
An average monthly salary in Gaza is 315 euros; 100 of that goes on water. Gaza is struggling to stay alive. One and a half million people are crammed into just 360 square kilometres. With so little room to move, and nowhere to run to, Gaza’s future is increasingly bleak.