Gaza fuel shortage may cause power plant shut down

Hamas energy authority warns of possible ‘humanitarian disaster’ unless flow of gasoline from Egypt restarts

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Gaza Strip's sole power plant (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)
The Gaza Strip's sole power plant (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

For the second time in a week, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip warned Thursday that the Palestinian territory’s sole power plant is liable to shut down entirely in the coming days because of a fuel shortage.

Gaza’s energy authority published a statement saying that the fuel shortage has reached such severity that it may precipitate “a humanitarian disaster,” Israel Radio reported.

According to officials and smugglers who spoke to China’s official Xinhua news agency, as of Wednesday no petrol had entered the Palestinian territory for three days, prompting line-ups outside gas stations and regular electricity blackouts.

Earlier this week Gaza energy authority official Ahmad Abu al-Amrin was quoted by an official Hamas news outlet saying the plant “tries its best to maintain the current timetable of electricity distribution to the Strip without any defect,” but that continued shortage would result in outages.

Since the deposition of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in a July coup, the Egyptian military has waged war on the smuggling tunnels running beneath the border of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

Much of the petroleum pumped into the isolated Palestinian enclave came through such tunnels, which are also used for the import and export of arms and other goods. The Gaza Strip relies on Egypt for an estimated 80 percent of its fuel needs.

Hamas Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh told parliament Thursday that the group condemns violence against Egypt and any attempt to drag it into what he called peripheral conflicts, namely the Egyptian army’s campaign to quash rampant Islamist militant groups operating in the lawless Sinai Peninsula.

Haniyeh added that Cairo’s fight against Islamist groups in the Sinai is not connected to the struggle against the true enemy, Israel.

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