Gaza hospitals on verge of blackout amid energy crisis

As internal Palestinian bickering holds up oil supplies, estimates give medical centers up to 72 hours before generator fuel runs out

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A Palestinian woman helps her son study by candlelight, at their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
A Palestinian woman helps her son study by candlelight, at their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

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.

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