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Gaza residents face a cold winter with more than 12 hours of power cuts per day

Jan. 7, 2017 2:40 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 8, 2017 11:30 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A new chapter of embitterment has opened for those living in the besieged Gaza Strip, as residents scramble to sustain their daily lives under longer daily power cuts, leaving most of the coastal enclave with just a few hours of electricity a day amid the increasingly cold weather during winter months.

According to a statement released Saturday by Gaza’s electricity company, most districts of the small Palestinian territory will only receive power for three-hour intervals in between 12-hour power cuts, as one of the two generators of Gaza’s sole power plant stopped operating on Friday due to severe fuel shortages.

The statement added that out of the 600 megawatts of power needed in the besieged enclave, less than 150 megawatts are available.

Israeli high voltage lines provide some 120 megawatts to the Gaza Strip, the statement said, while Egyptian power lines provide some 20 megawatts to southern Gaza.

However, the statement continued, the Egyptian lines have been unreliable recently due to frequent breakdowns at the main station in al-Arish city in North Sinai.

The statement highlighted that the company could not keep up with a precise schedule for distributing the electricity, owing to the limited supply of available power, adding that power theft in the besieged enclave also added to distribution issues.

The electricity company also pointed out that some 60,000 subscribers to their electricity plan had not paid their bills, which has affected the company’s efforts to buy enough fuel in order to run the power plant.

The power cuts create dangerous environments for Palestinians attempting to keep warm in the winter or needing light during the night. On Monday night a father and his two daughters were injured after a fire broke out in their home in Gaza City, which was caused by a candle the daughters lit during a power cut so that they could do their homework.

In May 2015, three small children died in a house fire caused by candles the family used during a power cut.

The besieged Gaza Strip has been suffering for years from a serious power crisis, which intensifies in the winter when families have to make do with only a few hours of power a day. Gaza’s usual electricity schedule alternates eight hours of power followed by eight hours without.

Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza's sole power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs.

The power plant has not run at full capacity in years, with Israel's crippling blockade severely limiting fuel imports into the coastal enclave.

The enclave's severe electricity shortages over the years have exacerbated the already dire living conditions in the small Palestinian territory.

War has also taken its toll, and during Israel's 50-day offensive on Gaza in 2014, the power plant was targeted, completely knocking it out of commission.

The UN has warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable for residents by 2020, pointing to the devastation of war and nearly a decade of Israel's blockade.

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