GAZA (Reuters) – Gaza hospitals will run out of drugs and fuel for generators within a few days unless Israel eases the border blockade it imposed to curb Palestinian rocket attacks, international organizations said on Monday.
Residents of the Hamas-controlled territory awoke to nearly traffic-free streets and shuttered shops, with petrol in short supply due to Israeli restrictions and Gaza’s main power plant shut down since late on Sunday.
Palestinian officials have warned the standoff could harm U.S.-spurred efforts with Israel to reach a peace deal this year.
“There is no fuel, meaning there is no work,” said Abu Mahmoud, a fisherman. “We have seen bad times before, but never worse than these days.”
Michele Mercier, an ICRC spokeswoman, said the organization was trying to persuade Israel to reopen Gaza’s borders at least to humanitarian supplies and fuel deliveries.
She said the ICRC was monitoring the situation in Gaza’s hospitals closely. European Union officials said the EU was pressing Israel to allow it to resume supplies of industrial fuel oil to the shuttered power plant as early as Tuesday.
“They (hospital) still have stocks but it won’t last for more than two or three days,” Mercier said. “If no more stocks are available, you can imagine what it means for the treatment of wounded and … everyday medical care would be affected.”
The EU officials said the hospitals, many now using generators, were running out of fuel to keep the power on.
Khaled Radi, spokesman of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said many hospitals were performing only emergency surgery.
The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to around 1.5 million people, has also stopped U.N. aid shipments that include food and other humanitarian supplies.
But UNRWA, which provides food to refugees, estimated it had two months’ worth of supplies stored in Gaza.
Israel has said the blockade would end if militants halted rocket launchings.
“There is not a humanitarian crisis. It’s not correct. Certainly, Israel will do everything in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” said Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, accusing Palestinians of waging a propaganda campaign.
European Union-funded fuel for the power plant is being held in storage at the Nahal Oz crossing, awaiting Israel’s decision on resuming supplies. Once Israel authorizes the transfer of the fuel, it will take more than 12 hours for the plant to begin operating, the officials said.
“If the Qassam (rocket) fire on Israel does not stop, Israel will continue with its pressure on Gaza,” Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio. “It is illogical for a country that is attacked by rockets to supply the attacker with power, fuel and water,” he said.
Despite its tough public line, Israel has not cut off its direct supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. Egypt also provides power, to the southern part of the territory.
While Gaza’s power plant provides only 30 percent of the territory’s electricity, its shutdown is affecting a far greater proportion of the population because of the way the power grid system works.
Gaza City, home to nearly half of the strip’s residents, receives almost all of its electricity from the shuttered power plant.