Gaza Goes Dark

How can you punish a people more than bombing their schools, hospitals and playgrounds? Knock out their only power plant:

The plant’s general manager, Jamal Dersawi, told NBC News that the loss of the structure is a “major disaster” for Gaza’s 1.8 million residents, whose electricity has already been limited by damage to power lines from Israel. According to Reuters, the plant provides two thirds of the energy in Gaza, including the area’s water sanitation facilities and pumps. (Residents are now being told to be careful with their water consumption.) The structure could be out of operation for up to a year.

Jesse Rosenfeld doubts it was an accident:

This is not the first time Israel has knocked out Gaza’s power plant and targeted essential infrastructure. Indeed, this is almost part of a standard playbook. Following Hamas’ kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, Israel plunged Gaza into darkness with a retaliatory strike on the power plant.  The bombing and escalation in Gaza set off a series of events that led to a full-on war in Lebanon as well as Gaza. …

It is people like the al Wakeel family who pay the harshest price for this military duel. They fled the Al Shajaya neighborhood under intense shelling last week, and 55 family member are now crammed into a three bedroom apartment in Gaza City. With little water and only a few hours of electricity a day they were unable to shower or bathe the 25 children in the apartment. Now that the power plant has been hit, they have no water and no electricity.

Noting that the power outage also curtails the flow of information out of the strip, Juan Cole attempts a tally of the destruction:

Israel has completely reduced to rubble some 5,000 homes and damaged 26,000. If you figure that Palestinians in Gaza live on average 5 in a dwelling, there would be roughly 340,000 domiciles in Gaza. Israel has therefore destroyed or damaged about ten percent of the housing stock. This is on top of past campaigns of indiscriminate and wanton bombing campaigns. Since Israel keeps Gaza under blockade, it won’t receive the necessary materials to rebuild. The Israelis, having bald-facedly stolen the homes and farms of the people of Gaza, won’t be satisfied until they are forced to sleep in open fields.

Israel has forced some 200,000 Palestinians to flee their homes. But since the Gaza Strip is so small, they have no place to go. Israel won’t let them leave the Strip, but is intensively bombarding it. Some of the places they have taken shelter, including schools and UN refugee shelters, have themselves been bombed by the Israelis.

Another UNRWA school in the Jabaliya refugee camp was bombed this morning. Hayes Brown passes along the news:

For the second time in as many weeks, a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip was hit with with artillery fire, with reports that as many 90 Palestinians were wounded in the attack that killed an estimated 19 people. The shelling that struck in Jabaliya landed around 5 a.m. early Wednesday morning, reportedly falling in rapid succession. Around 3,300 Palestinians had been using the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) school for shelter from the Israeli campaign to root out Hamas and other militant groups in the strip when the explosions began. “One hit the street in front of the entrance, according to several witnesses,” the New York Times reported. “Two others hit classrooms where people were sleeping.” …

Meanwhile, the death toll continues to escalate, according to the latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA). So far in the three week war, 1,118 Palestinians have been killed — including “at least 827 civilians, of whom 243 are children and 131 are women” — and 56 Israelis. More than 240,000 Palestinians are currently displaced, or more than ten percent of the Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million. “UNRWA has exhausted its absorption capacity in Gaza City and northern Gaza, while overcrowding at its shelters raises concerns about the outbreak of epidemics,” OCHA wrote.