Hospitals in the Gaza Strip could face blackouts within days as an energy crisis continues to throttle power supplies in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel and Palestinian officials estimated Thursday that hospitals would finish their reserve fuel for generators within 48-72 hours.
On Sunday Gaza’s only functioning power station stopped working after running out of fuel. The crisis was compounded by a technical fault shutting down a power line between Egypt and Gaza that had provided over six hours of electricity a day.
Gazans now have just four hours of electricity, followed by 12-hour blackouts, down from two eight-hour periods of electricity a day when the plant is operating normally and supplies are coming in from outside the enclave.
Electricity for the Strip’s two million inhabitants has been a long-running source of dispute, with a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terror group administering the Strip leading to cuts in fuel supplies to the power station.
At the beginning of the week power station officials and the Gaza Energy Authority announced that they were unable to pay full price for fuel that is trucked into Strip as it includes a haulage tax that dramatically increases the cost from NIS 1.08 ($0.29) per liter to NIS 5.08 ($1.39) per liter.
The Hamas-controlled energy authority is demanding that the Palestinian Authority pays the tax as it has done since 1994 but the PA, run by the rival Fatah party, is refusing.
In recent months Qatar paid for the diesel oil that fuels the power station but that funding also ended and negotiations between the PA and Hamas to solve the matter have so far not borne fruit.
Hamas seized power in Gaza in a violent coup in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Fatah organization of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel and Egypt then initiated a security blockade meant to prevent the terror group, avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel, from importing weaponry and materiel into Gaza.
On Wednesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called on Palestinian leaders to put aside their internal squabbles and solve the energy crisis.
In a statement Mladenov warned that “the social, economic and political consequences of this impending energy crisis should not be underestimated. Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures.”
Israel last week warned of the upcoming fuel crisis, cautioning Hamas that it must pay for the diesel fuel it consumes, which is supplied by Israeli energy company Dor.
In mid-September, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement to resolve the Palestinians’ outstanding debt of almost NIS 2 billion ($530 million) to the Israel Electric Corporation which also provides some power to Gaza.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.