Qatar to buy fuel for Gaza, doubling household access to electricity — report

UN envoy said to broker deal between Israeli and Gulf officials in bid to alleviate crippling power shortages in the Palestinian enclave

A gas truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on August 6, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
A gas truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on August 6, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Qatar has reportedly agreed to purchase fuel for the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant under a UN-brokered deal that seeks to end the severe energy crisis gripping the Palestinian enclave.

The Haaretz daily reported Thursday that the agreement with the Gulf nation will result in a “significant” increase in electricity in Gaza, where the majority of households receive an average of three to four hours of electricity a day.

The fuel provided by Qatar will increase the electricity to Gaza residents to an average of eight hours a day, the report said, adding Israel hopes that alleviating one of Gaza’s worst electricity shortages in recent years will diminish the chances of full-blown military confrontation in the Strip.

UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov was said to have negotiated the deal, worth tens of millions of dollars, between Qatari and Israeli officials over the last several months.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, attends a press conference at the (UNSCO) offices in Gaza City, September 25, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

The arrangement was finalized last week between Qatari diplomat Muhammad al-Amadi and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Haaretz said.

A decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed since the Hamas terrorist group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority has left the territory with crippling fuel shortages and deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip. Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during several years of sour relations with Hamas.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the PA, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting off payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, pushed out the Western-backed Fatah faction of PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 in a bloody coup. The Gaza-based terrorist group has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade.

Despite signing a reconciliation deal late last year, the rival Palestinian factions have been unable to form a unity government and have been in an extended dispute over tax bills on fuel imports.

Illustrative: Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The report of the Qatari aid comes as Hamas has increased the pace of violent border demonstrations to continue into the nighttime and early morning hours in a bid to pressure Israel into lifting the blockade.

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