israel-electricity
22 Jun
  • By James Evans

Israel cuts power to the Gaza Strip

Israel has begun to cut the amount of power it supplies to the Gaza Strip, fulfilling the request of the West Bank based Palestinian Authority. Most analysts are suggesting this is an attempt by the PA to put pressure on the Hamas government who have been in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007. People in the Gaza Strip will now have roughly 2 to 3 hours of electricity a day, the effect on necessary services such as hospitals and schools will be extremely detrimental.

The daily requirement for power in the Gaza Strip is roughly 400-500 Megawatts. Prior to these cutbacks, the Israeli power plant was supplying roughly 125 MGW but this will be scaled back by about 40 percent. The situation is made even worse because Gaza’s only power plant is no longer operational due to its fuel running out on April 9th. This power plant used to produce 60 MGW. The only other source of power in Gaza is the Egyptian power lines which provide 27 MGW of power. These Egyptian lines are often not functional and are currently not operational due to much-needed maintenance. Even if all these sources of power were operating at full capacity it would not meet the daily requirement of the 2 million people who live there. So without the Egyptian lines and the Gaza power plant, these 125 MGW supplied by Israeli is all the power Gaza has access too. However, It has emerged recently that leaders of Hamas have been in talks with Egypt to perhaps solve the electricity conflict if Hamas hands over 17 wanted men who currently reside in the strip. The is no information relating to how soon this supposed deal with Egypt could come about.

gaza-strip-wall

(Gaza Strip Wall. © Amir Cohen / Reuters 2016)

Since 2006, the PA has been paying 40 million shekels ($12m) a month for electricity to be delivered from Israel to Gaza, which is deducted from tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA. Israel does not engage with Hamas which it considers a terrorist group. Last month Abbas (leader of the PA) told Israel that it would only cover 70 % of the monthly cost of the electricity it supplies to Gaza. At an Israeli security cabinet session, recently Israeli ministers decided that Israel would not make up the shortfall. Israel does not technically have to hede the PA request and it could even reduce the amount of electricity in the West Bank, which receives 24 hours of electricity, and give some more to Gaza to avoid this humanitarian crisis. This move by the PA is being seen as an attempt to show to the international community that it does not support Hamas, which many consider a terrorist organisation, it also will put pressure on Hamas to relinquish control of the strip or to make them pay for the electricity itself.  Many also blame Israel for complying with the PA’s request.

The blame is being thrown around and each party is blaming the others. However, the sad reality is that this will mostly affect the normal people of Gaza, especially the young, old and sick. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs the area’s hospitals are working at minimum capacity with only the most critical services running. Some hospitals will soon have to stop even these as the power situation worsens. There are many other areas of services and daily life that this will affect. The impact on shops, trade and education are enormous. The bottom line is that regardless of who is to blame, people, mainly children, old and sick people, will needlessly suffer and some will die.

energy-authorities-are-desperately-cash-strapped-in-part-because-of-unpaid-bills-afp-mohammed-abed

(Energy authorities are desperately cash-strapped, in part because of unpaid bills. AFP Mohammed Abed)

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, said Gaza’s hospitals, water supply, wastewater treatment and sanitation services have already been dramatically cut back since mid-April and depended almost exclusively on a UN emergency fuel operation.

“A further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors,” Piper said in a statement. “The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute.”

As usual in a political crisis, it is the ordinary people who will suffer. It is sad that the PA, Hamas and the Israeli government are using electricity and basic services as political tools. Many people also fear this will only escalate tensions and create violence.

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