The blockade has hurt the educational prospects of students of all ages in Gaza.
Each year, thousands of college-age students are effectively barred from finishing their education because they’re denied permission to leave Gaza to study in the West Bank or elsewhere. Israel denies students permission to leave even when there’s no program in Gaza for their area of study and even if they already received a visa to travel internationally. In rare cases when students are allowed to leave, they often can’t return to visit their families while pursuing their studies, for fear they won’t be permitted to leave again.
The blockade has also deprived students attending Gaza’s public schools. During the 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza, 252 schools were damaged and seven were destroyed—although educational facilities are protected under international law. As of August 2016, only one of the destroyed schools had been rebuilt. And although the damaged schools were eventually repaired, educational equipment and materials have not all been replaced.
What’s more, Gaza needs to create 200 additional schools to meet the needs of a growing population, but these schools can’t be constructed because of Israel’s restrictions on importing building materials. This shortage of schools has led to severe overcrowding in most Gaza schools. Many now operate with “two shifts”—hosting one school in the morning and another in the afternoon.
- Students and academics are barred from traveling abroad to pursue their education.
- Gaza’s school shortage has forced nearly all public schools to hold two shifts each day, cutting students’ learning time in half.
- Israel has banned the import of basic school supplies into Gaza, including textbooks, pencils, lab equipment, computers, and paper at points throughout the blockade.
- Over 160,000 children in Gaza are estimated to be in need of continuous psychosocial support, which impacts education.
In 2006, the Israeli military bombed Gaza’s only power plant, destroying its six transformers. Under the blockade, the power plant can’t import parts to replace damaged components. Temporary fixes have allowed the plant to function at a minimal level, but those solutions were never made to last.
Other factors have exacerbated the power crisis, including a halt in smuggled fuel from Egypt in 2013, the destruction of fuel storage tanks and other structures at the plant by Israeli airstrikes in 2014, and the destruction of infrastructure and distribution networks throughout Gaza. Since April 2017, the Gaza power plant has been offline due to limited fuel imports, further limiting electricity in Gaza.
While Gaza’s electrical grid is linked with the Israeli system, Israel limits how much power it sells to Gaza, and existing power lines can only supply a fraction of Gaza’s total needs.
Today, less than one-third of Gaza’s electricity demand is being met. Rolling blackouts leave Palestinians in Gaza with less than four hours of electricity per day—affecting the health and well-being of residents; jeopardizing critical services, such as hospitals, schools, and water sanitation; and making it impossible for businesses to function.
Ending the blockade is crucial to address the power crisis, but it will not improve the situation immediately. Even if new parts could be imported and additional infrastructure could be built, it would take up to five years for the system to reach a point where current needs could be met.
The Gaza power plant operates at less than one-third of its capacity and has regularly had to shut down, due to fuel shortages, caused by fuel costs and Israeli limitations on importing fuel.
Because of the limited power supply, over 70 percent of Gaza households have access to piped water for only six to eight hours once every two to four days.
Since 2010, at least 29 people—24 of them children—have died in Gaza from fires or suffocation directly linked to power outages.
Water is piped to over 70 percent of Gaza households only once every two to four days for four to six hours at a time. That’s because the insufficient power supply can’t provide uninterrupted access to water. And if homes don’t have power during those periods to operate household pumps used to fill cisterns, then they will receive no water.
Hospitals provide only limited services because they rely on generators, which produce insufficient electrical supplies that can damage sensitive medical equipment.
Schools often run without electricity, leaving students in the dark and making many educational activities impossible.
Gaza’s unemployment rate is over 40 percent—one of the highest in the world.
No portion of the Gaza economy has been left untouched by the blockade.
Many of the basic raw materials and resources needed to produce goods in Gaza are blocked from entering Gaza, and exports are down nearly 85 percent from their pre-blockade levels. Electricity is available for no more than eight hours per day, fuel is limited, and in most areas of Gaza, access to water is severely restricted. Together these factors—combined with repeated Israeli military attacks on Gaza—have destroyed Gaza’s business and industry, resulting in the closure of 90 percent of factories and workshops.
Other key sectors, including fishing and farming, have also been impacted by the blockade. Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinian fishermen in Gaza should be able to fish anywhere within a 20 nautical-mile fishing zone. Since the blockade was imposed, however, Israel has allowed Palestinians to fish only within a zone between three and six nautical miles off the coast, negatively affecting the fishing industry and the livelihoods of those who rely on it. Farmers have also been devastated by the imposition of a no-go zone that extends up to one kilometer into Gaza along the border with Israel, which limits Palestinian access to 35 percent of prime agricultural land.
- Gaza’s unemployment rate is over 40 percent—one of the highest in the world. Youth unemployment is over 60 percent.
- Since 2007, Gaza’s gross domestic product (GDP) has shrunk by 50 percent. Average income is now at least 31 percent lower than it was in 1994.
- In 2007 the garment industry accounted for 17 percent of Gaza’s GDP. Because of the blockade, 87 percent of garment factories have closed.
- Of the estimated 3,500 permits issued to Gaza traders to allow them to exit Gaza for business purposes, 1,600 were revoked during 2016 without explanation. During the same period, 160 of the total of 350 travel permits issued to prominent business people from Gaza were revoked without reason.
Health careHealth care
The fuel and electricity crisis in Gaza—created by the blockade—impacts every service provider in Gaza, but none more vital than the health sector.
Like the rest of Gaza, hospitals and medical clinics have only six hours of power per day, requiring them to rely much of the time on generators, which are expensive and provide irregular electricity. Fluctuations in the electrical supply impact sensitive medical equipment such as ultrasounds, X-rays, laboratory machines, cardiac monitors, sterilizing machines, and infants’ incubators, putting patients’ lives at risk.
Gaza doesn’t have the means to treat cancer patients, people who need heart surgery, and other complicated cases. These patients require access to medical care in Israel or the West Bank. But under the blockade, movement restrictions delay and block access to treatment for patients, at times with fatal results.
The blockade also prohibits the import of vital medical equipment, including X-ray, MRI, and other laboratory machines. Imports of life-saving medicine as well as basic medical supplies are also often delayed or blocked, leading to severe shortages. Israeli officials have also repeatedly turned away World Health Organization trucks full of medical supplies, without explanation.
And during Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza, hospitals and clinics have been damaged and destroyed, ambulances have been made targets, and medical personnel have been killed.
All of these actions are violations of international law, which guarantees a right to health and protects medical providers.
- Over 30 percent of patients in Gaza who need outside treatment are denied permits to leave or are delayed treatment.
- As of January 2014, over 300 medical machines at Gaza hospitals were out of order, including the only MRI machine at Gaza European Hospital.
- About 30 percent of essential drugs and 50 percent of essential medical disposables are out of stock each month in Gaza.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 360,000 people–20 percent of Gaza’s population–suffer from mental health challenges due to the blockade.
- During the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli military destroyed Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital and three primary healthcare clinics. Many severely damaged medical centers have yet to be fully repaired due to the lack of resources.
Israel has controlled the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza for decades, but since the imposition of the blockade in 2006, these restrictions have been severely tightened.
The Erez Crossing, located on the northern edge of the Israeli-built wall around Gaza, is the only crossing through which civilians can travel between Gaza and Israel. At the start of the Second Intifada or Palestinian "uprising" in late 2000, around 26,000 people were allowed to leave Gaza each day via the Erez crossing. During the first half of 2016, the number of Palestinians allowed out of Gaza has averaged only around 15,000 per month, with numbers decreasing as the year progressed.
Nearly all access to the outside world is blocked for the residents of Gaza. Students are denied exit to study abroad. Patients needing medical treatment not available in Gaza are delayed or blocked from reaching care. People with families in other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory are kept from seeing their relatives. People wishing to leave to pursue work in other places are prohibited from doing so.
The only official crossing for goods into and out of Gaza is through Kerem Shalom. Any imports and exports are regulated through a list of controlled entry items created by Israel.
Between 2007 and 2010, even basic necessities such as cooking gas, water filtration equipment, toilet paper, toothpaste, clothes, noodles, candy, and spices were blocked from entering Gaza. Some limitations have been lifted, but severe restrictions on the import of many goods—including the raw materials necessary for industrial production, construction materials, medical supplies, fuel, and many consumer goods—remain in place.
- In September 2000, about 26,000 Palestinian laborers were permitted to exit through Erez Crossing every day. In 2015, the number of people allowed to exit was less than 3 percent of that number.
- In 2015, the monthly average of truckloads of goods exiting Gaza through Kerem Shalom was about one-tenth of the amount allowed to exit in 2007.
- Materials needed for industrial production—including wood planks, pipes, cement, and steel—are banned from entering Gaza.
- Residents of Gaza are indiscriminately prohibited from traveling or moving to the West Bank, and West Bank residents are banned from entering or moving to Gaza—a violation of the Oslo Accords.
- Fifty-seven percent of Gaza households are food insecure, and about 80 percent receive some form of food assistance, largely due to unemployment caused by restrictions on movement and imports and exports.
With one of the highest birth rates in the world and over 60 percent of its population under age 18, Gaza is in constant need of new housing. But since 2006, Israel has blocked the importation of materials needed to construct homes, creating a housing and building crisis.
This crisis also impacts other sectors, notably education and health, since new schools and medical facilities cannot be built to meet growing needs.
This situation is compounded by the destruction caused by repeated Israeli military attacks on Gaza. During the 2014 attack on Gaza, over 17,800 homes were destroyed or severely damaged to the point of being uninhabitable. As of August 2016, only 30 percent of those homes had been rebuilt, and over 65,000 people remained displaced. An additional 150,000 homes that were damaged remained inhabitable. Two years after the attack, less than half of these homes had been repaired.
It isn't only homes that cannot be repaired and rebuilt. Schools, hospitals, businesses, and key infrastructure remain in ruins or unusable because of restrictions on the import of building materials under Israel's blockade.
- Around 17,800 housing structures were severely damaged or destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the 2014 assault on Gaza. Two years later, only 30 percent had been rebuilt.
- Two years after the end of the 2014 attacks, over 65,000 residents displaced by the war have still not been able to return home.
- Prior to the 2014 attacks, there was already a shortage of at least 75,000 housing units in Gaza, largely as a result of building stoppages caused by restricted imports.
- Israel has a list of items banned from entering Gaza, including building materials such as wooden planks, rebar, cement, pipes, and adhesives. The list does not comply with international standards for identifying "dual use items," which could be used to produce weapons.
Water and SanitationWater and Sanitation
Access to clean and safe water is a basic human right, but it is a right denied to Palestinians in Gaza under Israel’s occupation and blockade.
Gaza has long faced a water crisis. Overexploitation of the Coastal Aquifer on which Gaza relies—combined with contamination from chemicals, wastewater, and other pollutants—has created a situation in which 96 percent of Gaza’s water supply isn’t fit for human consumption.
This situation is compounded—and, in part, caused—by repeated Israeli military attacks on Gaza that have damaged or destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including desalination plants, wells, and waste management facilities. The blockade has also prevented Gaza from repairing or replacing this infrastructure, as Israel prohibits the import of key materials that are needed.
As a result of damaged infrastructure, over one-third of Gaza’s population gets only six to eight hours of running water every four days. And at least 100,000 people remain completely disconnected from the water network. Twenty-eight percent of the population is not connected to the sewage network. Even where the sewage network is accessible, the energy crisis has forced wastewater treatment plants to shorten treatment cycles, causing a backflow of sewage onto streets and the discharge of partially treated waste into the Mediterranean Sea.
All of this leads to serious public health consequences. High levels of nitrates impact infant health; pollutants contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, liver problems, and kidney failure; and waterborne diseases are rampant. Diarrheal infections and high nitrate levels contribute to nutritional deficiencies and anemia among young children.
- Israel siphons off more than 80 percent of Gaza's groundwater through wells tapping Gaza aquifer sources—a key reason why the aquifer is not replenishing and is becoming increasingly contaminated.
- About 60 percent of Gaza's population relies on private water supplies that are expensive, unregulated, and often have lower hygiene standards.
- Pumps, concrete, welding supplies, pipes, water purification chemicals, and other items needed to maintain water and sewage infrastructure are blocked from entering Gaza by Israel.
- Up to 95 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into the Mediterranean Sea daily, partly due to electrical and fuel shortages.