Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP) has recently reported on the fatal dangers of Gaza’s ongoing electricity crisis. DCIP reports that on 1 September 2020, three young Palestinian children from the same family died when their home caught on fire in the Gaza Strip. The three brothers from the al-Hazin family, five-year-old Yousef, four-year-old Mahmoud, and two-year-old Mohammad, lived in Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. In late summer, electricity was only available intermittently, about four hours per day. According to DCIP, the boys’ father Omar al-Hazin charges a battery each day to light their home. He was unable to charge the battery on 1 September, so he lit a candle and placed it beside a wood-framed window covered with a plastic screen.
DCIP reports that the three boys were asleep in the home around 8:15 p.m. when al-Hazin left to buy groceries at a store nearby. The children were alone at the time as their mother had left the home to stay with her father three days earlier. At the store, the boys’ father heard his neighbours calling out that his home was on fire. He rushed back to the house to find many of his neighbours attempting to extinguish the fire. Tragically, all three children died in the fire.
DCIP states, “Tragic incidents like this that link back to Israel’s closure policy and an increasingly harsh human-made humanitarian crisis reverberate throughout the Gaza Strip and have a profound impact on children.”
DCIP adds that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine measures introduced by the Hamas de facto government in the Gaza Strip means that children are forced to study at home, often without electricity meaning they cannot access online classes.
A child reported to DCIP that on August 13, Israeli authorities banned the entry of fuel, causing Gaza’s power plant to close on August 18. The child states, “Last August, it was so hot that I felt I was choking, and we could not turn on the fan because electricity was cut off.”
14 year old Yamen said to DCIP, “Electricity controls all aspects of our lives” adding that most of his family’s problems would be resolved if the electricity crisis ended.
Israeli authorities limit and prevent essential goods and resources from reaching the 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza, where around 41 percent of inhabitants are aged between 0 and 14 years old, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. DCIP says, “Israel’s closure policy restricts imports into the small coastal enclave and has prevented sufficient fuel necessary for it to operate at full capacity. Consequently, Gaza’s population had struggled to access a steady supply of electricity long before Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza’s power plant.“
DCIP states that Israel’s closure policy toward the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment against the civilian population, which encompasses restrictions on fuel imports and cuts to electricity. The closure policy is incompatible with international humanitarian and human rights law and results in serious infringements of Israel’s obligations under Article 28 of the UNCRC, which stipulates that education should be accessible to all children on the basis of equal opportunity, and Article 3(2) of the UNCRC, which provides that states shall ensure children the protection and care necessary for their wellbeing.
The international community should redouble its efforts to bring to an end the totality of violations of international law stemming from the closure policy imposed on Gaza; a policy of collective punishment that is indiscriminate in its harm as egregiously highlighted by the loss of Yousef, Mahmoud and Mohammad’s young lives.
[This piece was originally published in the Further Reading section of LPHR’s Child Rights Bulletin covering 1 November – 31 December 2020]