April 22, 2017

On Thursday, it was announced that a power line feeding Gaza from Egypt had been damaged, a few days following an announcement that another Egyptian power line had been disconnected.

Head of the public relations department of Gaza’s power company in Rafah Abdullah al-Najili said that the Egyptian power line was fixed after four days of being out of operation.

The Egyptian power line provides the southern Gaza Strip with 23 megawatts of electricity, he added. In total, Egypt accounts for 15 per cent of Gaza’s electricity supply.

Damages to the Egyptian lines came after the enclave’s sole power plant was shut down last Sunday, reducing power supply to residents to just six hours of electricity followed by a 12-hour blackouts, compared to the typical schedule of eight consecutive hours of electricity.

Damage to the Egyptian lines reduced electricity intervals to as short as four hours for every 12-hour blackout, with electricity purchased from Israel (some 55 per cent of the previous supply), providing Gaza’s only source for power.

Gaza’s power authority has maintained that the taxes on fuel imposed by the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has made it impossible to buy enough fuel to keep the power plant in operation, and said it would not purchase additional supply until the PA grants it full exemption from excise taxes on fuel.

The company announced on Monday that the total available power supply was less than one third of the daily consumption in the coastal enclave.

The Gaza Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that it was forced to reduce health services as it was “entering a tough phase due to the electricity crises and lack of fuel in hospitals and medical centers.”

UNOCHA warned on Friday that the fuel reserves currently operating backup generators in most of Gaza’s hospitals will be exhausted within the next week, with no available funds to renew these reserves.

“If funding for fuel is not secured immediately, Gaza’s 14 public hospitals will be forced to partially or completely close essential services, putting thousands of patient lives at risk.”

The electricity crisis has also served to deepen an already longstanding political feud between Hamas, the de facto leading party of Gaza, and the Fatah-ruled PA, as Hamas rejected bilateral talks with Fatah on Tuesday.

United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement on Wednesday calling on each side to take responsibility for their role in the crisis, and demanded that Israel, which has imposed a near decade-long blockade on Gaza upheld by Egypt, “to assist by facilitating the entry of materials for repairs and maintenance of the grid and power plant.”

“The social, economic and political consequences of this impending energy crisis should not be underestimated. Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures,” Mladenov said.

Israeli NGO Gisha said last Wednesday that, “The current electricity crisis is yet another reminder of the dire state of Gaza’s infrastructure, the product of many years of neglect. The crisis emphasizes the immediate need for coordination and cooperation between the multiple parties who share responsibility for controlling civilian life in the Strip” — namely Hamas, the PA, Egypt, the international community, and “most of all Israel.”

“And where is Israel in all of this? The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, recently made a statement lamenting the fuel shortage in Gaza and the consequent harm caused to residents of Gaza,” Gisha noted in its statement. “His announcement presents Israel as if it were a neutral observer to the situation. As the primary bearer of control over Gaza for the last 50 years, Israel has the power to change things for the better. The significant control it maintains over life in the Strip should compel it to actively do so.”