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Israeli Strike on Power Plant Sparks New Worries

Israeli aircraft attack areas of southern Gaza, part of an effort to force Palestinian militants to release an Israeli soldier captured last Sunday. While no serious injuries have been reported, an air strike on Gaza's power plant has raised fears of a humanitarian crisis.

More than 36 hours after Israeli jets struck the privately owned 140-megawatt plant, the charred remains of its six massive transformers are still smoldering. Each transformer contains 15 tons of oil.

Sami Abadlah, the chief engineer of the Gaza Power Generating Company, tours the damage and shakes his head at the time he estimates will be needed to fix the damage. "I think minimum [of] six months," he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called targeting civilian infrastructure "barbaric and cruel." Mark Regev, of Israel's Foreign Ministry, says the power plant was targeted to help the army get 19-year-old Gilad Shaleet back by reducing night visibility and making it "more difficult to move the hostage from place to place."

The plant strike not only knocked out electricity to hundreds of thousands of people during sweltering summer heat; it also crippled water pumps, halting water flow to many Gazans. And back-up generators only have a few days supply of fuel left, says Christer Nordahl, the deputy director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

"So my biggest worry now," he said, "is that there will be no water in a few days time. It will be a life threatening situation rather quickly."

Nordahl is concerned desperate people might start tapping unsafe or foul water. And children and the elderly face increased risks of dehydration.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.