|Shortages of fuel and construction materials as a result of reduced tunnel activity continue
Egyptian forces have reportedly continued to demolish illegal smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border as well as houses that are used as entrances to tunnels, on the Egyptian side, as part of ongoing measures aimed at countering illegal activities and insecurity in the Sinai. According to Egyptian sources, at least 300 tunnels have been demolished by Egyptian security forces over the past three months; it is estimated that approximately ten tunnels are currently functioning. While local sources indicated that the volume of goods transported via tunnels per day remained roughly the same as last week (20 - 30 truckloads), these amounts constitute less than 15 per cent of the volume of goods that entered before June 2013 (up to 200 truckloads).
Due to the decline in tunnel activity, significant shortages of goods, including cheap fuel and construction materials, continued. This week, between 300,000-400,000 liters of fuel per day reportedly entered Gaza via the tunnels for all needs, including for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP), compared to approximately one million per day prior to June 2013. The Energy Authority in Gaza, indicated that while there was a slight increase in the plant’s fuel reserve this week (from 0 to 500,000 liters), the GPP remains operating at half of its full capacity, triggering long electricity blackouts of up to 12 hours per day. In some areas, power cuts have continued at up to 16 hours per day. Fuel shortfalls have also continued to disrupt the provision of basic services, including water supply, sanitation, health and transportation services. Reports of long queues of vehicles and people at the operational fuel stations across Gaza continued.
Construction materials have continued to enter via tunnels in limited amounts, with around 200 tonnes of building materials (mainly cement) entered per day this week compared to a daily average of more than 7,500 tonnes in June 2013, as reported by the Palestinian Federation of Industries. Shortages have resulted in significant increases in the prices of building materials, which has led to a reduction in construction activities and, subsequently, loss of livelihoods in this important sector. Initial information suggests that following the entry of limited amounts of construction materials from Kerem Shalom (see below) there may be a decrease in the price of some construction materials.
Limited amounts of construction materials enter via Kerem Shalom
According to the Palestinian Authority’s Crossing Coordination Committee, on 22 September, the Government of Israel began allowing increased amounts of construction materials for commercial uses to enter Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Crossing. This followed the 17 September announcement that fifty truckloads of imported construction materials would be allowed entry per day, in addition to the 20 truckloads of aggregates per day allowed since December 2012. The quantities entered this week
|included 40 truckloads of aggregates (1,600 tonnes), 20 of cement (800 tonnes) and ten of steel bars (200 tonnes). This is the first time that this volume and type (steel bars) of construction materials have entered Gaza through official crossings with Israel since July 2008, when Israel allowed entry of limited quantities of imported construction materials, mainly cement and aggregate, for a period of four months only. In general, Israel has prohibited import of construction materials by the private sector since the blockade was imposed on Gaza in 2007. The Ministry of National Economy in the Gaza Strip estimates daily needs at around 6,000 tonnes of gravel, 4,000 tonnes of cement and 1,500 tonnes of steel bars. |