Israel threatens to disconnect Gaza’s infrastructure

Published yesterday (updated) 24/01/2011 15:34

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie he was considering disconnecting the Gaza Strip from Israel’s electricity and water supplies.

The plan was originally proposed by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the summer of 2010. He suggested that the European Union help build a power plant, water desalination plant and sewage treatment facility in the Gaza Strip to make it self-sufficient.

Ma’an asked officials in Gaza what impact this would have on the coastal enclave.

Munthir Shublaq, director of the water supply network for the coastal cities, said Israel has already drastically reduced water supplies to the Gaza Strip. Israel provides 5 million cubic meters of water per year, while the average consumption is 180 million cubic meters. He added that recently, Israel further reduced the water supply to 3.2 million cubic meters annually.

Shublaq said this has left Gaza residents dependent on groundwater, which has become increasingly contaminated. At present, 95 percent is undrinkable, he said.

The excessive use of the supply forced sea water to move inland, raising the groundwater’s chloride concentration to 1000 milligrams per liter. The recommended concentration is less than 250 milligrams per liter, he added.

If Israel stopped supplying the Gaza Strip with water, Shublaq said, that would create serious problems in certain areas in the coastal enclave which depended on water from Israel. Water desalination plants must be urgently established, he said.

Meanwhile, if Israel disconnects the coastal enclave from its electricity grid, “Gaza will be destroyed,” said Kan’an Ubeid, chief of the Strip’s sole power station.

Without a connection to Israel’s power grid, Gaza residents would only have electricity once or twice a week. Around 60 percent of Gaza’s electricity supply comes from Israel and there is currently no alternative to the situation, Ubeid explained.

He was consulting Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah to look into other possibilities, he added.

“Egypt is still hesitating to include the Gaza Strip in the regional electricity project despite the fact that funding and land for the project is ready.”

Political analyst Ibrahim Abrash said Israeli threats to disconnect Gaza’s infrastructure were political, and a continuation of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Strip. He said former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began the process aiming to destroy the Palestinian national project.

However alternative supplies could be found, Abrash said, possibly in Egypt.

“Egypt is supplying Israel with electricity, so is it possible Egypt will refuse to do that for Gaza?”

Maan News Agency: Israel threatens to disconnect Gaza’s infrastructure.