The Gaza-based terror group Hamas accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of contributing to the “siege” of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum issued the accusation after the PA rejected solutions on Tuesday put forward by Hamas to solve the ongoing energy crisis in the Strip.
“Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah continue to insist on the their role in completing the siege of our people in Gaza and crushing them through many ways and means, by ignoring all the efforts and solutions… to resolve the electricity crisis and end the suffering of the besieged Gaza Strip,” Barhoum said in a statement posted to Hamas’s website.
He claimed that the PA is still demanding that Hamas pay added taxes on the diesel fuel that Ramallah buys from Israel and then transfers to Gaza, an issue that has long been a major sticking point between the two sides.
As part of its plan, Hamas had proposed a three-month moratorium on all taxes on diesel fuel to enable it to purchase the necessary amount to run the sole power plant in the Strip at full capacity.
Hamas’s plan also called for the construction of an additional power plant that would run on natural gas instead of diesel fuel. Qatar, which is one of the group’s leading patrons and donated $12 million worth of fuel in January to help solve the crisis, is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of natural gas and would be able to provide most of Gaza’s needs in that area.
Abbas’s government rejected Hamas’s proposal, saying earlier Tuesday that the group has refused to contribute to ending the crisis, and that the appointment Ghazi Hamad, a senior official in the organization, as the head of the energy authority in the Gaza Strip only exacerbated the problem.
Barhoum said that Abbas’s rejection of the plan put forward by Hamas “reflects the disappointing policies and way of thinking of this government.”
In response to Hamas’s accusations, the PA released a statement later on Tuesday, saying, “Hamas bears full responsibility for the consequences of this appointment, which may increase the suffering of our people in the Gaza Strip.”
Gaza recently experienced its worst electricity shortage in years, with power supplied to households only three to four hours a day.
In recent months, Gaza residents have staged spontaneous demonstrations against the power cuts, including one in January that saw thousands of taking to the streets of Jabaliya, in the northern Strip. Hamas cracked down on the protesters in response, arresting several and targeting journalists covering the demonstrations.
The two million residents of Gaza require around 450-500 megawatts of power per day, but are receiving less than half of that. With a cold winter, demand has spiked — leading to the shortages.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, in a bloody battle in 2007. The violent takeover triggered a border blockade by Israel and Egypt that, among other things, sharply aggravated power shortages.
The two factions have been unable to form a unity government and are engaged in an extended dispute over tax bills on fuel imports.
Agencies contributed to this report.