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Water and electricity must not be killing weapons

Whether the international community likes to admit it or not, electricity and water supplies are being restricted to Aleppo and Gaza

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

In July’s scorching summer heat, electricity and water supplies are being used as bargaining tactics in the conflicts in both Syria and the Gaza Strip. This past week, these supplies have reached a critical state, yet very little international attention is being given to solve the issues at stake.

Whether the international community likes to admit it or not, electricity and water supplies are being restricted, and in some cases completely disconnected, as a method of control in war-plagued cities, such as Aleppo and Gaza. Access to electricity and fresh water is a human right, and these supplies must not be used as weapons of war.

Gaza: living in blackout

As if electricity supplies to Gaza weren’t constrained enough as it is, with residents receiving a maximum of 12 hours of electricity a day, the only remaining functioning electricity plant in Gaza has shut down this week.

Whether the international community likes to admit it or not, electricity and water supplies are being restricted to Aleppo and Gaza

Yara al-Wazir

This is primarily the result of the heavy bombing that the plant experienced during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza 12-months ago, causing severe damage. The Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza means that the companies and supplies required to repair this equipment are unable to enter the besieged strip. Israel has claimed ‘security concerns’ against Israeli firms going into the Gaza Strip to help provide electricity to the city’s population.

Electricity supply is not a bargaining tactic, it is not something that can be played with, attacked, or turned on and off. Human life is very much dependent on electricity. Hospitals, schools, and virtually every industry depend on electricity for power. From life machines to surgeries to food storage and water heating for cooking and showering, everything requires electricity. Instead, the (mostly unemployed) population now relies on independent generators.

Restrictions and prevention of repair efforts are nothing but a bargaining tactic that is used against desperate people in dire situations. It is used to weaken the people of Gaza and damage their livelihoods. This goes on with minimal international attention, because after all, cutting electricity supply isn’t nearly as brutal as bombing civilians and schools.

Aleppo: A bargaining chip

In Syria, Al-Nusra Front shut off the water supply to government-controlled districts within the City of Aleppo during the early weeks of Ramadan, forcing Syrians, including children to drink untreated water. After four weeks of limited (to no) water supply in certain districts in Aleppo, water supply was finally restored this week.

At what point did Al Nusra Front decide to reinstate a basic human right to human beings? When it decided that it needed electricity in the districts that it controls, as the electricity supply is controlled by government-controlled districts. Electricity was exchanged for water, but only after 3000 children in Aleppo became victims of diarrhoea, which is the second leading cause of death of children under the age of 5.

Sadly, Gaza doesn’t have a chip to bargain with. Gaza has nothing but people. And right now, these people have nothing to offer the Israelis in exchange for a functioning power plant. There is very little that can be done, and while NGO’s are trying to help villages in Africa connect to the grid, Gaza, once a beautiful modern hub, is now trailing in the stone ages. Since the people of Gaza do not have a chip to bargain with, international pressure on Israel may be the only alternative.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.