Gaza’s sole power plant shuts down over fuel shortage

Amid ongoing tensions, tax dispute between Hamas and Palestinian Authority leaves strip’s 1.8 million residents in the dark

A Palestinian man working in a power plant in Gaza City, April 14, 2008. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)
A Palestinian man working in a power plant in Gaza City, April 14, 2008. (Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

The only power plant in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip was at a standstill on Tuesday due to an ongoing shortage of fuel caused largely by a dispute over taxes, officials said.

The plant has been closed since Saturday night when it ran out of fuel, said Ahmed Abu Al-Amreen, an official in the energy ministry.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has gradually removed a tax exemption on fuel since January, demanding Hamas pay taxes on imports to the enclave.

The cash-stripped Gaza energy authorities estimate the tax costs at around NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) monthly and say they cannot afford it.

Relations between the terrorist organization Hamas and the PA, which is dominated by Hamas’s bitter rival Fatah, are fraught.

The rest of Gaza’s energy needs are provided by Israel and Egypt.

The power station was closed down in July 2015 in similar circumstances. It was damaged by shelling more than once during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Conditions in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, have steadily deteriorated since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007 and prompted an Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

Last week, Israel’s state-owned electric company reached a temporary agreement with the Palestinian Authority to put an end to recent power cuts in exchange for paying off a small chunk of a nearly NIS 2 billion debt.

The Israeli Electric Corporation cut power temporarily to Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem earlier this month in an attempt to pressure Palestinians into paying off the debt.

The IEC says the Palestinian authorities have racked up a debt of NIS 1.74 billion ($460 million), which the company can no longer absorb. Of that sum, the IEC says NIS 300,000 ($79,350) is owed by the Palestinian Authority and the rest by Palestinian power distributors.

The deal will see the PA pay off NIS 20 million of that debt and give negotiators one week to reach an understanding over settling the rest of the money owed.

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