Qatari-bought fuel boosts Gazans’ daily electricity

Palestinians receive an extra two hours of power after Israel lets fuel through

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

In this January 15, 2017, photo, a Palestinian family warms up with a fire outside their makeshift house during a power cut in the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
In this January 15, 2017, photo, a Palestinian family warms up with a fire outside their makeshift house during a power cut in the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip received extra hours of electricity on Thursday after several trucks of Qatari-bought fuel arrived at the coastal enclave’s sole power plant, Muhammed Thabet, a spokesman for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, said.

The Qatari-purchased fuel began flowing into Gaza’s power plant on October 9, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman halted its entry four days later following many weeks of protests, including violence against Israeli security forces, along the border between Israel and the Strip.

Israel, however, decided to lift the embargo on the entry of the fuel on Tuesday following a week of relative calm in the border region.

“Yesterday, Gaza received four hours of electricity followed by 16 hours of no electricity. Today, it received 6 hours of electricity followed by 12 hours of no electricity,” Thabet said in a phone call. “This increase in electricity supply is much needed, but we are still facing a major shortage.”

A tanker delivers fuel at the Gaza power plant in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip October 9, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Demand for electricity in Gaza is estimated at 500 and 600 megawatts per day in the winter and summer, respectively.

On Thursday, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company only had planned to distribute 172 megawatts, according to Thabet.

“We are currently getting 120 megawatts from the lines coming from Israel and 52 from the power station,” he said. “If we receive more fuel for the power plant, we would be able to increase the megawatts.”

The Palestinian Authority pays for the electricity coming from Israel.

The power plant in Gaza has four turbines and an estimated total capacity to generate 110 megawatts daily, but on Thursday only two turbines were in operation.

A substantial number of Palestinians in Gaza, especially those with higher incomes, rely on backup generators for electricity during power outages.

Fadi, a resident of Gaza City, said he was relieved by the additional electricity supply, but said he would not be content until he has power all day.

“I feel relieved to receive more electricity, but we need much more than the current levels. I won’t be satisfied until I have it for all hours of the day,” he said in a phone call. “We are really living in disastrous conditions and we need the international community to solve this problem.”

Late last month, Qatar decided to donate a total of $60 million to purchase fuel from an Israeli company for Gaza, a source in the coastal enclave said in a phone call.

United Nations officials, including Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, have been in charge of overseeing the deliveries of the fuel, the Gaza-based source said.

“Today the second turbine of the Gaza power plant starts producing 52 MW, alleviating the suffering of two million Palestinians in Gaza,” Mladenov tweeted Thursday.

Illustrative: A Palestinian boy cools off with water from a jerrycan held by a man during a heatwave at al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on July 2, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams

The PA has strongly opposed the deliveries of fuel, arguing that they amount to financial aid for Hamas.

“When Qatar pays for the fuel, Hamas in Gaza will collect the bills and put it in its pocket, and this is an indirect financial aid to Hamas,” a PA official said on October 7, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The PA has recently cut some of its budgets to Gaza in an attempt to pressure Hamas to give up control of the territory.

The terror group has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the coastal enclave, and has resisted initiatives that would see it cede full control to the PA.

Earlier Thursday, a rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israel, causing neither casualties nor damage.

Asked if Liberman intends to stop the entry of fuel into Gaza in response to that attack, the defense minister’s office declined to comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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