Gaza’s sole power plant runs out of fuel

Crisis a result of ‘dispute’ with West Bank Palestinian authorities; Gaza Health Ministry warns of impending humanitarian crisis

Palestinian children play on a street during a power cut in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on January 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian children play on a street during a power cut in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on January 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

The Gaza Strip’s only functioning power plant was not functioning Sunday after running out of fuel, the head of the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave’s electricity provider told AFP.

Samir Metir said that all the plant’s fuel, purchased with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.

He said it was not clear when the Palestinian territory would receive more, owing to a “dispute” between the electricity authority in Gaza and Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.

The Gaza Health Ministry warned of a humanitarian crisis as a result.

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.

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.

Protests broke out in January over the power shortages, which the Gaza Health Ministry warned could have “dangerous consequences” for patients.

As things stand, residents can expect two six-hour periods of electricity, Metir said, “including electricity bought from Israel and Egypt.”

Israel last week warned of the upcoming fuel crisis, warning 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.

The agreement was signed by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Yoav Mordechai, Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheik, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Israel’s Ministry of Finance Director-General Shai Babad.

The IEC began to scale back the electricity flow to West Bank Palestinian cities in late May and early April due to the debt. Power supplies to Jericho and Bethlehem were limited, causing some blackouts, and the company threatened to do the same in other West Bank areas.

The agreement with the IEC from September did not affect the situation in the Gaza Strip.

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