August 22, 2006
By Gideon Levy
It’s hot, very hot, in the Gaza Strip. But over the last two months,
ever since Israel bombed the new power station in the center of the
Strip, the heat has become unbearable. The bombing has disrupted the
supply of electricity to some 1.5 million residents; food in
refrigerators goes bad, the patients in the hospitals groan, industry
and work are paralyzed, traffic is gridlocked and there is a severe
On the night of June 28, the Israel Air Force bombed the power
station as part of Operation Summer Rains, destroying its six
transformers. The assault was approved by the security cabinet, and
was intended to pressure the Palestinians into releasing Gilad
Shalit, the captured soldier.
The modern power station, financed by Enron in partnership with a
Palestinian company, was completely paralyzed, and the Gaza Strip
lost some 60 percent of its supply of electricity. Gaza buys the
remaining 40 percent from the Israel Electricity Corporation.
On Sunday this week, the burned out and destroyed transformers were
still lying near the power station’s fence. Two were made by Israeli
company Elco Industries, and four by the German ABB. The station,
located between Gaza and Dir al Balah, was inaugurated at the end of
2001. It was to provide power not only to Gaza but to the West Bank
too, after being linked in the future to the Israeli network.
Israel knew exactly what it was bombing, says station manager Dr.
Drar Abu-Sisi. It’s impossible to operate the station without the
transformers. Replacing them would take at least a year – either by
ordering new transformers or by hooking up to the Egyptian power
With a capacity of 140 megawatts, the power station was the most
advanced in the Arab world. Israel could have paralyzed the station
by simply stopping its fuel supply, without putting it out of action
“Had they told us on the phone to cut the power off, we’d have done
so right away,” says Abu-Sisi, who is convinced that the bombing was
“It was a foolish attack, which only sows more and more hatred for
Israel,” he says.
Each transformer costs around $2 million, but the main damage is
indirect – the loss of income to the power station, grave damage to
all its systems that could rust, and the huge blow to the Gaza
Strip’s miserable economy.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz Monday that
“the bombing was intended to disrupt the activity of the terror
networks directly and indirectly associated with Gilad Shalit’s
Meanwhile, the station’s 160 workers are out of work and Gaza has
electrical power for only a few hours a day. Those who can afford it
buy generators, and everyone goes up on the rooftops at night to
escape the burdensome heat inside.