UN envoy seeks deal to end Gaza electricity crisis
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UN envoy seeks deal to end Gaza electricity crisis

Nikolay Mladenov tries to mediate between Hamas leaders and Palestinian Authority heads to restore power to enclave

A Palestinian woman washes dishes by candlelight at her makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 12, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
A Palestinian woman washes dishes by candlelight at her makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip on June 12, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The United Nations envoy to the Middle East met on Thursday with senior Hamas officials to try to end the crisis between the terror group and the Palestinian Authority which has led to electricity blackouts and a medical crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Nikolay Mladenov met Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other senior members of the organization in Gaza, the Ynet news site reported on Friday. They looked at ways to end the shortage of fuel for the power plant and to increase medical supplies from the Palestinian Authority to the enclave.

London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported that Mladenov has come up with a four-point plan to resolve the situation which he presented to Hamas.

Citing sources in Gaza, the paper said that the solution would have the EU pay the various taxes that the Palestinian Authority imposed on the diesel fuel needed to operate the power station.

It would also create a new board of directors for the Electricity Distribution Company that collects money from consumers, attempt to improve the rate of payment which currently is less than 30 percent, and appoint an auditing company with credibility to audit the accounts of the Hamas-controlled corporation.

A palestinian family eats dinner by candlelight at their makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a power outage June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
A palestinian family eats dinner by candlelight at their makeshift home in the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, during a power outage June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Earlier this month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to slash the amount of electricity provided to Gaza due to Hamas’s refusal to pay, a request Israel fulfilled. Hamas responded with a warning that the move could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Israel had been supplying 125 megawatt-hours to Gaza and has been the Strip’s main source of power for over two months, leaving the Hamas-ruled territory with just four to six hours of power a day. The cut dropped that to two to three hours daily.

Three days after Israel scaled back the power supply, Egypt stepped in to deliver fuel to Gaza, temporarily staving off the crisis.

The fuel, trucked in through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, was routed to the territory’s only power station, which has been closed for several months due to fuel shortages.

Palestinian security forces stand guard as Egyptian trucks carrying fuel drive down a street after entering the southern Gaza Strip from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinian security forces stand guard as Egyptian trucks carrying fuel drive down a street after entering the southern Gaza Strip from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

In April, the PA told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million ($7 million) of the NIS 40 million ($11 million) power bill for Gaza. Israel at the time supplied 125 megawatt-hours to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power the territory for 24 hours a day.

The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA over the past two months, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself.

The PA’s new strategy to squeeze Hamas out of power, which also includes cutting PA salaries to employees in Gaza and a massive reduction in medical aid supplied to the Strip, coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hamas’s violent takeover of the territory from PA control.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armaments and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state, with which it has fought three wars and which it avowedly seeks to destroy.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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