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Egyptian power lines to southern Gaza resume operation

Sept. 6, 2017 11:52 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 9, 2017 6:16 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- One of the Egyptian power lines feeding the Gaza Strip resumed operation on Tuesday after being cut off for about two months, Gaza’s electricity company said.

Muhammad Thabet, head of public relations at the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, said that the ‘Gaza 2’ electricity line that powers districts in southern Gaza with 10 megawatts was back in operation and providing electricity.

On Aug. 31, the the company announced that the two other power supply lines from Egypt were back up and running.

Now that all three Egyptian power lines had resumed operating, Thabet said he expected the electricity distribution in the besieged coastal enclave to improve.

The electricity company official reiterated that most Palestinians in Gaza are being supplied with only four hours of electricity a day.

Israeli NGO Gisha later reported on Thursday that all three lines from Egypt were out of commission again, but that the lines were due to resume operating by Friday, Sep. 8.

Gisha quoted Thabet as saying that once the Egyptian lines are back up, the company will transition to a supply schedule in cycles of six hours of electricity, followed by twelve hours of outages. 

Over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that ended on Monday, for a few days, Gaza reportedly received between six to eight hours of electricity a day because ministries and public institutions were on holiday.

The power lines from Egypt can provide up to 28 megawatts, but are often damaged. They were knocked out of commission in July, reportedly as a result of deadly clashes in the Rafah area near the border with Gaza.

The bout of disrepair came after Israeli authorities acceded to a demand by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to dramatically reduce its electricity supply to Gaza in May, as the territory had was already reeling from lack of adequate access to electricity and fuel.

Israeli media quoted Thabet as saying on Sunday, before Gaza 2 came back online, that Gaza was receiving a total of 148-149 megawatts: 13-14 from Egypt, 65 from Gaza’s only power station, and 70 from Israel -- down from the 120 megawatts that Israel was supplying before it slashed its supplies.

The Gaza Strip’s total demand for electricity is approximately 400- 500 megawatts, according to Israeli NGO Gisha, which focuses on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The desperate lack of electricity has severely impacted Gaza's hospitals, while sewage treatment facilities have also been forced to to close. The unprecedented, dangerous levels of pollution off of Gaza's coasts has reportedly led to the death of a Palestinian child.

“Even prior to the cuts going into effect, 100 million liters of mostly untreated sewage were being pumped from the Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea daily; residents received no more than four hours of electricity at a time, followed by at least twelve hours of blackouts,” Gisha wrote in in June.

“Water desalination stations could not operate; sewage could not be pumped away from residential areas; generators were over-extended; entire hospital wings were shut down during blackouts, and people who rely on life-saving equipment were put at risk. Reducing the electricity supply has already led to devastating consequences and greatly exacerbated the situation in Gaza, which was calamitous and unstable even before the current crisis.”

In 2012, the UN warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current trends were not altered. However, a new report released last month by the UN said that “life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” and that for the majority of Gaza's residents, the territory may already be unlivable.
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