|Events in Egypt trigger a halt in movement of people and goods
During the reporting period, the Egyptian authorities implemented a number of measures that impacted the movement of people and goods, both through the official channels and through the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. These measures have been implemented in the context of the ongoing political situation in Egypt, as well as in connection to the deteriorating security situation in the Sinai Peninsula.
Closure of tunnels results in increased shortages of fuel and building materials
Following similar measures in the previous two weeks, during this reporting period the Egyptian authorities, destroyed another 25 tunnels that operated under its border with the Gaza Strip. Combined with the heavy Egyptian military deployment along the border and severe access restrictions on people and vehicles into the border area, these measures have led to a dramatic decline in the transfer of goods and fuel through the tunnels. In recent years, the tunnels have become the main channel for the supply to Gazan markets of building materials, whose import through the official crossing with Israel is severely restricted, and of fuels, which are cheaper (due to subsidies) in Egypt than in Israel. It is estimated that fewer than 10 tunnels were operating by the end of this reporting period.
Local sources in the Gaza Strip report that there has been a resumption of transfer of fuel through the tunnels since 7 July but in very limited amounts: an estimated 1.5 million liters of diesel and 250,000 of petrol, an amount that is insufficient to meet demands. Fuel is still being rationed and prioritized for the public sector, including the power plant, hospitals and water and wastewater facilities. Private contractors have reportedly resumed purchases of fuel from Israel to compensate for the reduction in supply through the tunnels; however, due to the significant price difference the quantities acquired have been small.
Despite the current shortage of fuel, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) continues to operate three turbines, two-thirds of its capacity (120 megawatts), using its fuel reserves and the limited quantity of fuel that was delivered through the tunnels this week. As a result, the scheduled power supply remained at 12- 16 hours per day on average.
Hospitals in the Gaza Strip rely heavily on fuel to run their backup generators due to prolonged power cuts, however their fuel reserves have reached dangerously low levels. In addition, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) report that they are now relying only on ambulances that run on diesel and have had to stop the operation of the 24 ambulances with petrol engines due to lack of petrol supplies.
Since 5 July, Gaza City Municipality has reportedly had to release 60,000 m3 of untreated wastewater in to the sea and has reduced its solid waste collection and transportation to landfill by 50 per cent over the week. Access for individuals to petrol and diesel remains limited and long queues of vehicles continue to be reported at the fuel stations across the Gaza Strip.
Transfer of construction materials through the tunnels continues to be extremely limited for the second week in a row, resulting in severe shortages of basic materials including cement, gravel and steel bars at the local market. The Ministry of housing and Public Works in the Gaza Strip has indicated that construction activities have severely declined and that, if prolonged, the shortage of building materials will necessarily result in the loss of jobs in the construction sector, further increasing the already high unemployment rate (34.5 percent).
Relative calm along the fence with Israel continues
While relative calm continues, this week a number of incidents were recorded in the context of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to land along the perimeter fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and to the sea beyond 6 nautical miles (NM). While no injuries were reported, access to livelihoods in these areas continues to be affected.
In three incidents near the fence this week, Israeli forces fired warning shots at farmers, forcing them out of the area, and conducted land-leveling operations. On at least four additional occasions, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire at fishermen who were reportedly sailing near the 6 NM limit, forcing them to leave the area. There were no injuries but one boat and some fishing equipment were damaged. Also, according to Israeli sources, armed men opened fire towards Israeli naval forces off the coast on 5 July and the latter responded by opening fire towards the shore. No injuries or damage were reported.
Palestinian armed groups reportedly fired a rocket towards Israel that landed inside the Gaza Strip; no injuries or damage were reported.