More than 36 billion cubic meters of Gaza’s natural gas have been stolen for two decades amid systematic closure of the enclave to protect the interests of American and Israeli gas companies.
Since the early occupation of Palestine, Israeli occupation authorities adopted systematic policies to control land and water resources in cooperation with the British government including the use of military overpower to set realities on the ground and enact laws and military orders to shape the future of the occupation.
Home to 2.3 million people, Gaza has been reeling under a years-long Israeli blockade since 2007, badly affecting livelihood in the territory.
Since that time, the Israeli occupation has forced a naval closure of the Gaza Strip as part of its energy security policy. The El-Arish pipeline and Mari-B gas platform are key “Israeli” strategic assets for its entire gas distribution network requiring stringent security measures.
The Mari-B platform is located only 13 nautical miles from Gaza’s coast and the El-Arish pipeline runs across the entire Palestinian coast at 13 nautical miles connecting occupied Ashkelon to El-Arish in Egypt. Since 2000, the year that Mari-B was first discovered, the occupation has forced the closure of the Gaza Maritime Zone preventing Palestinian fishing and recreational use beyond distances of 6 nautical miles.
During that time American and Israeli gas companies have illegally exploited Palestine’s adjoining gas resources. Under customary international law joint cooperation is required for the evolvement of joint geological resources. However, in 2012 United States corporation Noble Energy and Israeli corporation Delek Drilling, with approval from occupation authorities, rapidly exploited the Noa field from the Israeli side violating customary international law.
The accelerated rate of gas production from the Noa well means that the entire resource is more than likely damaged beyond use.
The “Israeli” military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and the blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007 have prevented the Palestinian people from exercising any control over their gas resources, denying them much-needed fiscal and export revenues and leaving the Palestinian economy on the verge of collapse.
A recent study by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points out that new discoveries of natural gas in the Levant Basin are in the range of 122 trillion cubic feet, while recoverable oil is estimated at 1.7 billion barrels. More recently, the occupation state has begun to develop new oil and gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean, solely for its own benefit.
The occupation state bears the responsibility for the depletion of Gaza’s gas resources as an occupying power due to its extensive and unlawful exportation of gas resources for its sole benefit and systematically prevents Palestinians from developing their Gas resources. These policies are aimed at forcibly stagnating the Palestinian economy and depriving Palestinians of their right to self-determination and the use of revenues for their statehood.
These violative practices constitute war crimes and amount to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. “Israel” fails to meet its obligations under international humanitarian law by annexing all gas resources located in occupied Palestinian territory and by eroding every possible Palestinian effort to develop their natural resources.
During past Israeli military offensives, “Israel” has targeted vital energy infrastructure located in the occupied Gaza Strip. “Israel” frequently attacks Palestinian fishermen and regularly carries out bombing campaigns on the Gaza Strip, leaving Palestinians unable to access and develop their natural resources infrastructure. This allows the occupation authorities to maintain control over energy supplies to the occupied Palestinian population and ensure its continued fragmentation.
As the gas field remains inaccessible, Palestinians continue to accumulate losses of billions of dollars that would have otherwise, at least, stabilized the Palestinian economy and, more importantly, solved the chronic energy crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The densely populated enclave requires about 560 megawatts of electricity to meet the population’s needs. What is available now is only 200 megawatts – 60% of which comes from Israel via 10 power lines, the rest from Gaza’s diesel-run power plant with fuel provided by Israel and paid for by Qatar. The power plant produces electricity for roughly 12 hours a day. The gap is bridged through unsafe methods such as generators, which continue to cause accidents and claim lives.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has seen recently growing calls by Palestinian factions, led mainly by the Palestinian resistance movement, to revive explorations. Billboards and banners were put up across the Gaza Strip with the caption “Our Gas is Our Right”.
“We are following up on all developments related to the gas issue and the agreements.” He added, “Our people’s right to benefit from its natural resources and gas is guaranteed in all international laws and resolutions.”, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem stated.
Earlier this month, Egypt succeeded in persuading ‘Israel” to start extracting natural gas off the coast of the Gaza Strip, after several months of secret bilateral talks.
This development coincides with the rising global energy prices caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, while European nations seek alternatives to Russian gas.
Meanwhile, it seems Palestinian resistance factions are watching the world rush to energy sources and do not want to leave empty-handed from the revenues generated by the gas extraction off the Gaza coast which gives an indication that any agreement that might be signed in the foreseeable future won’t complete without their permission.
During a public event held at the Gaza port on Sept. 13, the Palestinian factions laid the foundation stone for a sea corridor linking the Gaza Strip with the outside world, in their speeches during the event, the faction leaders demanded that the Palestinians be allowed to benefit from their own gas resources, and stressed that they would not allow Israel to steal it.
The estimated reserves of the Gaza fields are modest compared to others, but from the perspective of Gaza suffering constant cuts in gas supplies and rising prices dictated by Israeli middlemen and transaction costs, the reserves are huge. Yet natural wealth that could fuel massive development, though only miles offshore, seems as distant as the moon.