Israel Begins Reducing Gaza Power Supply After Abbas Cuts Payment

GAZA — Israel began reducing its electricity feed to the Gaza Strip on Monday, deepening an energy crisis, after the Palestinian Authority limited how much it pays for power to the enclave run by the rival Hamas group.

The cutback, announced last week by the Israeli government, is expected to shorten by at least 45 minutes the daily average of four hours of power that Gaza’s 2 million residents receive from an electricity grid dependent on Israeli supplies, Palestinian officials said.

The Palestinian Energy Authority said the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) had cut by eight megawatts the 120 megawatts it supplies to the Gaza Strip over power lines.

An IEC spokeswoman confirmed a cutback had begun, in line with the West Bank-based Palestinian government’s decision to cover only 70 percent of the monthly cost of Israeli electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet gave the state-owned IEC the green light to implement the reduction, saying that Israel would not cover the shortfall in PA payments.

The Palestinian Authority said it had acted because Hamas had failed to reimburse it for the electricity. But the PA’s move was widely seen as a bid to pressure Hamas to relinquish its hold on the enclave the Islamist group seized in 2007.

Any worsening of the power crisis – Gaza’s main electrical plant has been off-line for two months in a Hamas-PA dispute over taxation of fuel supplies – could cause the collapse of health services, local health officials said.

Hospitals largely rely on generators for power, as do Gaza residents who can afford the high cost of fuel to run them.

(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alison Williams)


Gaza: Ordinary people the victims as electricity supply becomes the latest weapon in Hamas, Fatah dispute

Posted yesterday at 5:19pm

Baby boy hooked up to a respirator machine in the Intensive Care Unit.

Ageing, destroyed infrastructure, a 10-year Israeli blockade and a new tax fight between Palestine factions has led to a major electricity crisis in the impoverished Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Outside Gaza’s Rantissi Children’s Hospital, the generator is going full throttle.

With electricity in Gaza down to just three to four hours a day, the machine has been running for up to 12 hours straight, powering crucial equipment in the intensive care unit (ICU) that keeps children alive.

But three weeks ago, ICU staff here faced a nightmare scenario.

“The generator just stopped working,” says Muhammad Abunada, the hospital’s director.

“It malfunctioned because it was overloaded.”

Nurse treats a baby

As technicians raced to get the generator back online, doctors and nurses madly pumped away on manual respirators in order to keep their tiny patients alive.

Dr Abunada says it was an agonising 10 minutes before the machine kicked back in.

“This never happened in the history of the intensive care unit before, that we had to do manual respiration on children like this,” the director tells the ABC.

Down at Gaza’s seafront, you can smell the effect of the power crisis before you can see it.

Pipe on Gaza's beachfront spews sewage into the Mediterranean.

Up and down the coast here, pipes spew the sewage of Gaza’s 2 million residents straight into the Mediterranean, posing an environmental disaster not just for Gaza but also for neighbouring Israel and Egypt.

“More and more untreated sewage, 100,000 cubic metres a day now, is entering into the sea because there isn’t enough energy around to treat it properly,” says Robert Piper, the UN’s top humanitarian official for Gaza.

Blue water contrasts with brown water

Locals hostage to warring Palestinian factions

Gaza’s energy crisis stems from a combination of political failure and deliberate policy execution.

Repeated airstrikes by Israel on Gaza’s power plant since 2006 have left the electricity infrastructure in the strip in a dire state.

Meanwhile, a proposed gas plant to replace the damaged diesel facility has been delayed for years, partly due to Israel’s 10-year blockade on the territory, which began when the militant, rocket-firing Islamist group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

But this most recent crisis is due to a tax fight between warring Palestinian factions.

Hamas says it can no longer afford to pay hefty diesel fuel taxes to the Palestinian Authority, which is run by Fatah, the Western-backed Palestinian party that rules the West Bank.

As a result, Fatah has told Israel to cut electricity to Gaza because it doesn’t want to continue to subsidise its political rival.

A man stands with a horse in front of a razor wire fence encasing a power plant

It’s a dirty game, where the misery of the people of Gaza is used as a bargaining chip for political gain by all sides.

“I think this is what’s most disturbing about all this is that if you’re a Gazan living in Gaza today, no-one is looking out for your interests,” Mr Piper says.

“You’re caught between these political conflicts. You can’t leave. There is a wall around you. The air, the sea, the land is blockaded by Israeli security forces. You can’t vote with your feet. You really are trapped.”

This week, Mr Piper described the people of Gaza as being held “hostage” in the long-standing dispute between Fatah and Hamas.

He says if a request by the Palestinian Authority to make further cuts to Gaza’s electricity is implemented, power supplies will go down to as little as two hours a day.

It is warned that this could lead to a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the strip.

“A further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors,” Mr Piper says.

Patients undergo dialysis

‘We, the ordinary people, are the victims’

As their leaders squabble, Gaza’s poor feel utterly abandoned.

“When I tell my kids there is no electricity and I can’t cook or bake, they don’t understand,” 52-year-old Um Mohammad says sadly.

In her small concrete house in the neighbourhood of Beit Lehiya, the mother of eight is trying to prepare a meal for her extended family to break their Ramadan fast.

Um handers a flattened, circular piece of dough, ready to be placed in the row next to several other pieces

She’s spent all afternoon making dough but now the power has cut out and she can’t bake.

“We, the ordinary and poor people, are the victims of the conflict between the leaders, Fatah and Hamas,” she says.

“This is not a normal life. There is no power, nothing. Everything here is broken.”

Six children sit on a bench and seven children sit on the floor of a small room

Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, territorial-disputes, government-and-politics, world-politics, palestinian-territory-occupied


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