BICOM Analysis: The current situation in Gaza

  • Israel has never cut the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip. 60% of Gaza’s electricity comes from Israel and this has continued uninterrupted, despite ongoing missile attacks on Israeli civilians in the Western Negev.
  • Whilst Israel has discussed cutting the power supply to Gaza, it has never taken this course of action. Israel played no role in the recent power cuts in Gaza. Given that Israel has continued to supply 60% of Gaza’s electricity, the question that has to be asked is whether Hamas’s decision to turn off the Gaza Strip power grid was part of a PR exercise.
  • In opting to follow the current course of action, Israel has made clear both its determination to avoid a ground operation in Gaza, and its eagerness to bring an end to the incessant missile attacks on Israeli civilians launched from Gaza.

On Sunday 20 January 2008, after Palestinian terrorists fired more than 230 Qassam rockets at Israeli civilians in just four days, Israel reduced fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip. Last week more than 230 short-range Qassam rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel by the various terrorist organisations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad as well as the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. [1]

In the month of January alone, Palestinian terrorist groups based in Gaza fired 450 short-range Qassam rockets and mortars at Israel; the most Qassam rockets ever to hit Israel in a one-month period. [2] Palestinian terrorist groups have fired over 4,000 rockets and mortars since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005. And with the range of Qassam rockets now extending to the city of Ashkelon, more than 200,000 Israeli civilians are within rocket range of Gaza. [3]

While Israel desperately seeks an end to the ongoing rocket fire, the course of action most likely to be successful would be a coordinated ground offensive. However, Israel would prefer to avoid this approach and is clearly trying to deal with the Qassam threat through any other way it can.

Hamas cuts off electricity

Hamas has generated a humanitarian crisis by cutting electricity to the civilian population in the northern Gaza Strip. [4] While Palestinians have died in hospitals because of this measure, [5] rocket manufacturing outlets continue to receive electricity unabated. [6] Moreover, since Sunday over 100 Gaza patients have been transported for treatment in Israeli hospitals. Despite Hamas’s claims, the Gaza Strip is still receiving nearly three-quarters of its regular electricity supply from Israel (124 Megawatts, 60 percent) and Egypt (17 Megawatts, five percent). [7]

In protest of Israel’s decision to reduce fuel shipments, the Hamas government deliberately shut down the only power plant in Gaza, which provides 30 percent of the Gaza Strip’s total electricity, claiming that Israel is to blame for the electricity blackouts in northern Gaza. [8] And earlier today, having been starved of electricity by the Hamas leadership, close to three hundred thousands Gazans crossed over the border with Egypt, after a section of the border barrier was blown up by gunmen. This latest development will be analysed further in the next BICOM analysis.

What must be remembered is that while Hamas claims that the Gaza population remains in the dark, the fuel generating power for their rocket manufacturing industry continues to flow unabated. [9] Indeed fuel supply has been used by Palestinian terrorist organisations to build the rockets which have been fired daily at Israeli civilians across the South. For this reason the decision to restrict fuel supplies, while continuing to provide electricity, represents a targeted policy aiming to weaken the terrorists that are actively seeking to undermine the peace process.

Miko Zarfati, Chairman for the Workers’ Committee of the Israel Electric Company (IEC), responding to claims that Israel has ceased supplying electricity to Gaza, announced that the IEC has continued to provide 70% of electricity to the Gaza. “We’re continuing to supply them electricity despite the overload for electricity in Israel and despite the fact that Israeli residents and Electric Company workers that are being sent to Gaza Vicinity communities are under threat from Qassam rockets…The Electric Company sends people to fix power outages that are caused from the Qassam barrages everyday in Sderot and the Gaza vicinity and more than one worker has already been injured in these rocket attacks.” [10]

Yesterday, following the sharp decline in Qassam rockets fired since Israel’s restrictions over Gaza’s trade, Defence Minister Ehud Barak decided to permit the European Union to transport industrial fuel to the power plant in Gaza, as well as gas and oils for cooking.  Medical supplies have always been permitted to enter. Following the announcement of the partial lifting of the embargo yesterday evening, nine Qassam rockets and 13 mortar shells were launched at communities in the western Negev from Gaza. [11]

Gaza as a launching ground for missile attacks

The current situation in Gaza needs to be understood the wider context of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, Hamas’s electoral success in June 2006, and the Hamas coup in June 2007. 

Since Israel’s complete military withdrawal and evacuation of 9,000 Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip [12], steps taken in the hope that they would bring about a major stepping stone to both peace and a two-state solution, over 4,000 rockets have been fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorist organisations. [13]

Further, following the PLC elections of June 2006, the Hamas-led government refused to accept the international consensus that they commit to existing agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, recognise Israel and abandon terror. The result was that the US and EU cut off direct aid to the PA. [14]

Nevertheless, in order to prevent suffering to Gaza’s civilian population, the Quartet in June 2006 created an emergency aid mechanism designed to provide “needs-based assistance directly to the Palestinian people. [15] Overall aid to the Palestinian Authority areas actually skyrocketed despite the western boycott of the Hamas-led government. Aid in 2006 totalled $900 million, a three-fold increase from the figure of $349 million a year earlier. [16]

Throughout this time, while Israel and the Quartet continued to help Gaza’s population, the Hamas leadership prioritised its own political agenda and engaged in the large-scale smuggling of funds and weaponry into its Gaza stronghold. In June 2007, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent coup that left more than 100 people dead. [17]

Following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip, neighbouring Israeli cities and towns have been bombarded by rocket attacks. Israeli families in Sderot, the Israeli town closest to Gaza, have spent more than two years in bomb shelters, day and night. Recent rocket attacks have become both more frequent and have struck a longer range – putting the city of Ashkelon and its 120,000 residents in danger. [18]

Thirteen people have been killed by the rocket and mortar fire and over 300 have been injured. [19] Children in the western Negev region also suffer from high levels of trauma. Seventy-four percent of children in Sderot aged 7-12 suffer from anxiety and 28.4 percent of all of Sderot’s residents suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. [20]

Israel, faced with ongoing rocket attacks, has not yet found a solution that would protect its citizens from daily barrages of rocket fire. While Israel has urged efforts at peace negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president has no control over terrorist groups controlling and operating freely in Gaza. Israel has thus far resisted an extensive ground operation, but is targeting terrorists and terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

Recent significant terrorist activity

More than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells have been fired from Gaza at Israel since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. [21]

More than 2,300 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and communities in 2007. [22]

In December 2007, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and GSS uncovered 6.5 tons of potassium nitrate hidden in sugar-sacks marked as humanitarian aid from the European Union. Potassium nitrate is used by terrorists for the manufacture of explosives and Qassam rockets. The truck containing the potassium nitrate was stopped at one of the crossings from Israel into the West Bank. [23]

Two Grad-type Katyusha rockets were fired by Palestinian groups from Gaza into Ashkelon in the month of January. The first fell in the northern part of the city on 3 January 2008, the longest range achieved so far by rockets from Gaza. [24] The second fell in south Ashkelon, a coastal city near Gaza, on 15 January 2008 [25]

On 14 January 2008 two tons of explosive material was found during a check of a humanitarian aid delivery at the Kerem Shalom goods terminal from Israel into the Gaza Strip. This was the second time within a week that inspectors at the terminal discovered a dual-purpose substance under the cover of humanitarian aid shipments to the Gaza Strip. [26]

On 15 January 2008, a Palestinian sniper shot and killed Ecuadorian Carlos Andrés Mosquera Chávez, a volunteer on Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, while he was working in fields close to the Gaza border. Chavez was shot in the back as he and a friend fled the fields upon hearing bullets fired towards them. [27]

The GSS estimates that 80 tons of explosives were smuggled into the Gaza Strip this year. Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, more than 130 tons of explosives have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip. [28]


[1] Israel Defence Forces Spokesman Unit, Jan. 18, 2008
[2] Israel Defence Forces Spokesman Unit, Jan. 20, 2008
[3] IDF Spokesman’s Unit, Jan. 2 and Jan. 20, 2008
[4] “Supply of electricity to Gaza continues,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 20, 2008; Waked, Ali, “Abbas to UN: Call on Israel to lift siege from Gaza,” Ynetnews.com, Jan. 20, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3496715,00.html
[5] Ravid, Barak, Issacharoff, Avi, Harel, Amos, Azoulay, Yuval, Grinberg, Mijal, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “PM: Israeli won’t let humanitarian crisis erupt in Gaza,” Haaretz, Jan. 21, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/946709.html 
[6] “Supply of electricity to Gaza continues,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 20, 2008
[7] For more on Gaza patients in Israeli hospitals, see the Ministry of Defence Coordination of Government and Activity in the Territories; “Supply of electricity to Gaza continues,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 20, 2008
[8] Ravid, Barak, Issacharoff, Avi, Harel, Amos, Azoulay, Yuval, Grinberg, Mijal, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “PM: Israeli won’t let humanitarian crisis erupt in Gaza,” Haaretz, Jan. 21, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/946709.html 
[9] Ormestad, Catrin,”In Gaza, life destroyed by the Qassams,” Haaretz, Jan. 20, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/946111.html
[10] Goldstein, Tani, “‘We’re supplying electricity to Gaza under Qassam fire,” YnetNews, Jan. 21, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3496729,00.html
[11] Mijal Grinberg, Yuval Azoulay and Mazal Mualem, ‘Israel delivers fuel for power plant, gas to Gaza Strip,’ Haaretz, Jan. 22, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/947120.html
[12] “Palestinian leader presses to resume peace talks,” MSNBC, Sept. 3, 2005, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9189090/
[13] IDF Spokesman’s Unit, Jan. 2 and Jan. 20, 2008
[14] For more information about Hamas, see the Council on Foreign Relations’ backgrounder ‘Hamas’ http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/
[15] “Diplomatic Quartet backs international mechanism to aid Palestinian people,” UN Department of Public Information, 17 June 2006, http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/db942872b9eae454852560f6005a76fb/f756f87b3c2622bc85257192004cae58%21OpenDocument
[16] Amira Hass, “Aid to PA nearly tripled in 2006, despite international boycott, Haaretz, 16 May 2007, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/860220.html
[17] “Hamas takes full control of Gaza,” BBC, June 15, 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6755299.stm
[18] IDF Spokesman’s Unit, Jan. 17, 2008; “Brigades bombard Israeli towns bordering Gaza Strip,” Ma’an News Agency, Jan. 16, 2008, http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=27240; Kershner, Isabel, “Longer-range type of Katyusha rocket alarms Israelis,” International Herald Tribune, Jan. 6, 2008, http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/06/africa/mideast.php
[19] Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, Dec. 5, 2007
[20] Berger, Ronny and Gelkopf, Marc, “The Impact of the Ongoing Traumatic Stress Conditions on Sderot,” Natal, The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War in cooperation with Dr. Mina Tzemach, Director, Dachaf Public Opinion Research Institute, Oct. 2007
[21] IDF Spokesman’s Unit, Jan. 2 and Jan. 20, 2008
[22] IDF Spokesman’s Unit, Dec. 31, 2007
[23] “6.5 tons of potassium nitrate discovered in sugar bags marked as EU assistance,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 29 2007, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terrorism+and+Islamic+Fundamentalism-/Potassium+nitrate+discovered+in+sugar+bags+marked+as+EU+assistance+29-Dec-2007.htm
[24] “News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation, Jan. 1-8, 2008,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/jan_1_8_08e.htm
[25] “Gaza: Three Palestinian civilians killed in IAF air strike,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan 16, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1200308099331&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[26] Katz, Yaakov and Paz, Shelly, “Kassam materials caught at border,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 14, 2008, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1200308084927&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
[27] “Carlos Andrés Mosquera Chávez,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 15, 2008
[28] Summary of Palestinian Terrorist Activities for 2007 – Statistics and Trends of Palestinian Terror (Hebrew), accessed Jan. 16, 2008, http://www.shabak.gov.il/publications/Pages/sikum2007.aspx

Notice: Uninitialized string offset: 0 in /home/bicom/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-query.php on line 3144