Hamas official blasts Ramallah over Gaza blackout

PA tax hike has left the Strip in the dark, accuses Moussa Abu Marzouk, who promises Israeli energy and Qatari fuel will solve the crisis

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A Palestinian uses a gas lighter while he works inside his restaurant during a power outage in the Gaza Strip, November 17, 2013. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)
A Palestinian uses a gas lighter while he works inside his restaurant during a power outage in the Gaza Strip, November 17, 2013. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority is to blame for Gaza’s energy crisis due to the high taxation it imposes on Israeli diesel used to power the Strip’s sole power station, a Hamas official wrote Wednesday.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, accused the Palestinian Authority of raising the price of Israeli diesel from NIS 4.26 ($1.2) per liter to NIS 7.75 ($2.19), making Gaza’s energy bill unaffordable to the Hamas government.

“The [Palestinian] Authority in Ramallah has gone back on its promise to not increase the tax. This has rendered the energy authority in Gaza unable to pay the taxes, as it can barely pay the bill without the tax,” Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page.

Gaza suffers from repeated power shortages which have worsened since the recent Egyptian crackdown on smuggling tunnels, through which cheap diesel was previously streamed into the Strip. Today, Gaza residents receive power for only half of the day.

The energy needs of the Gaza Strip stand at 360 megawatts at full capacity, Abu Marzouk wrote. But Gaza currently receives just 208 megawatts: 28 from Egypt, 120 from Israel, and 60 from the sole Gaza power plant.

The solution is near, he promised. “The Zionist entity” will increase its energy supply to Gaza by 100 megawatts, and new spare parts for the power plant will increase its production capacity from 60 to 100 megawatts. Finally, “understandings” with the PA and Qatar will begin streaming cheap Qatari diesel into the Strip through Egypt.

Within weeks, Gaza’s energy crisis will be solved, the Hamas leader promised.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in Qatar earlier this week to discuss possible solutions to Gaza’s energy crisis, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

According to Ma’an, two possible solutions were raised by the Qataris: either Qatar can pay the PA to buy diesel from Israel, or it can ship its own diesel to Israel’s Ashdod port, from which it will be delivered by land to Gaza.

While Hamas would not acknowledge the PA’s diplomatic efforts, Abu Marzouk said that Gaza’s Islamist government maintained full responsibility towards its citizens.

“The crisis has placed all humanitarian, health and environmental services in Gaza in danger,” Abu Marzouk wrote. “Hamas and the government in Gaza are responsible for managing the crisis or solving it. It is not shirking its responsibility.”

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