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Gaza’s sole power plant may shut down amid border closure, warns manager

Rafiq Maliha says if diesel not delivered by Friday, electricity will be cut for Strip’s 2.3 million residents, as timeline for end to measures remains unclear

Palestinians ride a donkey near the Gaza power plant in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip October 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
Palestinians ride a donkey near the Gaza power plant in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip October 9, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Gaza’s only power station is at risk of imminent shutdown due to a lack of fuel, its manager warned Thursday as Israel’s complete closure on the territory carried on for a third day.

Israel shut the goods and people crossings along its frontier with Gaza on Tuesday, citing fears of reprisals following the arrest of two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank.

The military has also imposed restrictions on the movement of Israeli communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

The rare measures have halted deliveries through Israel of diesel, which is needed to fuel Gaza’s sole power plant.

“If industrial diesel needed for the plant to generate electricity does not enter today or tomorrow, the plant will stop generating electricity because there’s not enough [fuel] to run it,” said Rafiq Maliha, the station’s general manager.

Gaza’s 2.3 million residents experience regular power shortages and last week received only an average of 10 hours of electricity per day, according to data from the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA.

Troops block roads near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 3, 2022. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday instructed security officials to prepare “various civilian and military measures” in order to remove the threat and return to normal. But the chief of the military’s Gaza Division told residents of towns near the Gaza Strip Thursday afternoon that the road closures in the area will last “as long as necessary.”

Diesel for the power plant is usually trucked in from Egypt or Israel, which have maintained a blockade of the enclave since the militant group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

As well as shuttering the key supply line with Israel, this week’s measures have also prevented Gazans from leaving the territory.

The World Health Organization said the closure was affecting 50 patients per day who had been due to leave Gaza for treatment.

Thousands of Gazans with permits to work in Israel have also been unable to travel across the checkpoint.

Israel’s Defense Ministry unit responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, did not immediately respond to an AFP request to comment on the impact of the Gaza closure.

The shutdown has frustrated and confused Israeli residents living near Gaza, according to Gadi Yarkoni who heads the local Eshkol regional council.

The West Bank head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, Bassem Saadi, is seen shortly after his arrest by Israeli troops on August 2, 2022. (Courtesy)

Although he understands the security considerations, Yarkoni told public broadcaster Kan that residents “unfortunately suffer sometimes.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid is due to hold further talks on Thursday regarding the security measures, which were imposed following a raid by security forces in the northern West Bank district of Jenin.

Israeli forces detained Bassem Saadi and a fellow senior member of Islamic Jihad, which has a strong presence in Gaza. A 17-year-old Palestinian, who PIJ later identified as a member of the group, was shot dead by Israeli forces during the raid.

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