Gaza: power shortage critical —again

Fuel for generators is running out as the power crisis in Gaza continues, an electricity company official said Aug. 13. Kin’an Obed, vice-president of the Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza, said the quantity of diesel that Israeli authorities allowed into the Strip that day was only sufficient to power one generator, and would run out within three days. Already, the power company has been forced to schedule 8-to10-hour power cuts every day for several months, Obed added. The sole power station in Gaza shut down totally on last week due to a shortage of fuel, leaving hospitals reliant on emergency generators.

Stating that the company sends $4 million to Ramallah’s Finance Ministry every month to pay for fuel, Obed said the electricity crisis is a political one. The governments in Ramallah and Gaza hold each other responsible for the crisis. Under current arrangements, the Gaza government is to transfer funds from electricity bill payments to the Palestinian Authority, which in turn pays Israel, through which the fuel is transferred. The PA says the Gaza government is arrears in payments. Gaza officials cite near 50% unemployment figures in the Strip as making it near impossible to collect sufficient payments to keep the plant in fuel. (Ma’an News Agency, Aug. 14)

The fracas comes as the PA and Gaza government exchanged prisoners this week on the occasion of Ramadan. The Gaza government announced the release of 100 Fatah-affiliated prisoners under premier Ismail Haniyeh’s order, while eight Hamas-affiliated An-Najah University professors were released by PA security forces in Nablus. (Ma’an News Agency, Aug. 12)

Israel facilitated the transfer of 250 supply trucks to the Gaza Strip on last week for the first time since the official “easing” of the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory in June. The trucks entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing. (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3)

Israel and Hamas continue to exchange armed attacks. An unexplained explosion at the Gaza Strip home of a senior Hamas commander on Aug. 2 came two days after Gaza-based militants fired a rocket at the Israeli town of Sderot, causing damage to a building used by day as a rehabilitation center for disabled children. The attack came at night, so there were no casualties. The IDF responded, firing missiles at two tunnels in the southern strip which it said were used by militants and weapons smugglers. A day earlier, a missile fired from Gaza hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon. (CNS News, Aug. 2)

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