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Egyptian line damaged, reducing power in southern Gaza to 4 hours a day

April 20, 2017 2:06 P.M. (Updated: April 20, 2017 5:35 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza’s power company on Thursday said that an Egyptian power line feeding southern Gaza had been damaged after another Egyptian line was disconnected on Sunday, amid a broader electricity crisis in the small Palestinian territory.

The company said that the damage of the al-Arish line had added to the escalating electricity crisis in the besieged enclave, leaving the southern Gaza Strip with just four hours of electricity a day.

The power line typically supplies some 20 megawatts of power to southern Gaza. The power company added that two Israeli power lines will also be disconnected for "urgent amendments."

Meanwhile, Gaza's health ministry released a statement, expressing serious concerns over "dangerous consequences" of the electricity crisis, saying that while health services have already been reduced, many surgeries have also been postponed due to the lack of fuel to operate electricity generators, threatening the lives of patients. 

On Sunday, Gaza’s power company shut down the enclave’s sole power plant after internationally supplied fuel from Qatar and Turkey ran out.

The company has maintained that the taxes on fuel imposed by the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has made it impossible for the company to buy enough fuel to keep the power plant in operation.

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

In its daily report, the company explained that it could only distribute 133 megawatts a day to the Gaza Strip's districts, which consume between 450 and 500 megawatts. The Israeli grids provide 120 megawatts, while Egyptian grids are able to provide only 13, after one of the Egyptian power lines was also disconnected on Sunday evening, according to the statement.

Gaza's power authority accused the PA of causing "another electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip."

According to Deputy Chairman of Gaza's power authority Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, operating the power plant's two generators costs 50 million shekels ($13.67 million) with these taxes as opposed to 20 million ($5.47 million) without.

The official said at the time that Gaza residents were currently connected to power for six hours at a time followed by 12-hour blackouts -- down from Gaza's normal schedule of two eight-hour intervals of daily electricity.

The PA has meanwhile argued that the Hamas movement was responsible for "creating a new crisis in the Gaza Strip,” using near identical accusations lobbed by Hamas at the Fatah-led government.

PA spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud has said that the PA was committed to covering the costs of Gaza’s electricity originating from Israel and Egypt, saying his government has paid 40 million shekels ($10,931,732) a month for Israeli electricity and seven million shekels ($1,913,053) for Egyptian.

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.”

The crisis has 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 for a united approach to the “tense” situation in the besieged coastal enclave.

Mladenov called on each side to take responsibility for their role in the crisis, pointing out that Hamas must “ensure that collection rates are improved and that revenue collected in Gaza is returned to the legitimate Palestinian authorities in order to keep fuel and electricity supply flowing,” referring to the PA.

Mladenov urged the PA to facilitate the purchase of fuel for Gaza’s power plant “under conditions that temporarily alleviate or substantially reduce relevant fuel taxes.”

Mladenov also placed responsibility on Israel, calling on the government which has imposed a near decade-long blockade on Gaza, “to assist by facilitating the entry of materials for repairs and maintenance of the grid and power plant,” stressing also the importance of repairing and upgrading Egyptian power lines, which even at full working capacity in conjunction with Israeli electricity grids and Gaza's power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs.

“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.
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