Political clash leaves Gaza without electricity


A political fight between Egypt, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is to blame for fuel shortages that have led to a major electricity crisis in Gaza, sources told AFP on Monday.

Gaza has long suffered power outages, but the problem has spiraled in recent months, with hospitals warning they face disaster and residents forced to endure rolling blackouts lasting up to 18 hours a day.

At the root of the problem, according to officials and sources on all sides, is a political tug-of-war involving Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, and the Egyptian authorities.

On Sunday, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down again for lack of fuel after using up some 450,000 litres of Israeli diesel that was delivered on Friday.

The diesel, paid for by the Palestinian Authority, was delivered via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Gaza’s border with Israel.

‘Unfortunately all the import routes for fuel have been cut, whether we’re talking about the tunnels, the official crossings or from Ramallah,’ said Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official at Gaza’s energy authority.

‘The plant stopped functioning for the first time on February 14, but the fuel shortage began on December 25, 2011, because of security measures taken inside Egypt along the borders, which blocked the provision of fuel to the Rafah region.’

He said the Gaza government had paid Egypt $2 million (1.5 million euros) for fuel, none of which had yet been delivered.

‘There is a political problem with certain parties in Egypt, in coordination with the (Palestinian Authority) government in Ramallah, which is not interested in resolving the fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip,’ Abu al-Amrin said.

In Ramallah, officials blame Hamas, saying the movement did not send any of its representatives to join them at a Cairo meeting with Egyptian officials to discuss the crisis.

A Palestinian source in the West Bank said Egypt and Hamas also disagreed over both the cost of the fuel and how it would be delivered.

Egyptian officials declined to comment on the dispute, but one official source told AFP that Cairo intended to comply with the deal to supply fuel to Gaza.

He pointed out, however, that Egypt had suffered fuel shortages itself in recent days.