Days after the only functioning power station in the Gaza Strip ran out of fuel and stopped working, the United Nations envoy to the region called on Palestinian leaders to put aside their internal squabbles and solve the energy crisis in the coastal enclave.
In a statement Wednesday, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov also urged Israel to allow into Gaza material and equipment needed to repair and maintain the Strip’s electricity infrastructure, and pleaded for the international community to help rehabilitate power supplies.
“The social, economic and political consequences of this impending energy crisis should not be underestimated,” Mladenov said. “Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures.”
On Sunday Samir Metir, the head of the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave’s electricity provider, said that all the plant’s fuel, purchased with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.
He said at the time it was not clear when the Palestinian territory would receive more, owing to a “dispute” between the electricity authority in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Fuel supply for the Strip’s two million inhabitants has been a long-running source of dispute, with most homes in Gaza receiving two eight-hour periods of electricity a day even when the plant is operating normally.
“Reform of the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) is essential to improve revenue collection and transparency in line with international standards,” UN envoy Mladenov declared. “The de facto authorities in Gaza must ensure that collection rates are improved and that revenue collected in Gaza is returned to the legitimate Palestinian authorities in order to keep fuel and electricity supply flowing. All in Gaza must share the burden by paying their bills. It is the poorest Palestinians in Gaza who pay the price for exceptions and privileges that others enjoy.”
“This reform, as well as the necessary investments in reducing electricity losses and upgrading the grid in Gaza, should be financed and supported by the international community but it cannot do it alone. It must go hand-in-hand with the Palestinian Government facilitating the purchase of fuel for the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) under conditions that temporarily alleviate or substantially reduce relevant fuel taxes.”
The terror group Hamas seized power in Gaza in a violent coup in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Fatah organization of Palestinian 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.
“Israel also has a significant responsibility to assist by facilitating the entry of materials for repairs and maintenance of the grid and power plant,” Mladenov added. “Egyptian power lines to Gaza also need to be repaired and upgraded.”
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.
AFP contributed to this report.