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As international funds empty out, Gaza power plant announces possible shutdown

April 10, 2017 5:14 P.M. (Updated: April 10, 2017 8:15 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Gaza power authority warned on Sunday of an “imminent aggravation” of the existing electricity crisis in the besieged coastal enclave, as the authority announced that it would soon run out of internationally funded fuel supplies and could not afford to buy the fuel itself.

Gaza power authority director Fathi Sheikh Khalil said during a news conference in Gaza City that in the past few months, Gaza's sole power plant had been running on fuel funded by Qatar and Turkey.

The $12 million Qatari grant consisted of three payments of $4 million over the course of three months, the first of which arrived in January, while the Turkish grant consisted of 8,000 tons of fuel.

According to Khalil, both the Qatari and Turkish fuel supplies will run out on Thursday, April 13.

After Thursday, the power authority will have to buy fuel itself through the Palestinian Authority (PA). Sheikh Khalil said the PA recently set the diesel price at slightly more than five shekels per liter, as opposed to two shekels per liter without taxes.

"The Gaza power authority can't afford to pay the price (of diesel) if any taxes are added," Sheikh said, adding that "officials in the Ramallah-based General Petroleum Directorate notified us that they have not received any instructions to exempt fuel sold to Gaza power plant from taxes."

"If this is the case, the Gaza power authority will not be able to buy fuel, and so the power plant will be shut down, decreasing the already low power supply in Gaza,” Sheikh said, highlighting that the Gaza Strip requires an output of approximately 600 megawatts per day, while the maximum daily output of the the power authority is 270 megawatts of electricity.

Last week, Gaza’s electricity company announced that an Egyptian electricity line, named “Palestine” line, was expected to resume supplying electricity to the southern Gaza Strip after being inoperable for some two years.

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, as the usual electricity schedule alternates eight hours of power followed by eight hours without.

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 Israeli blockade.
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