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Hamas-Fatah fuel spat leaves thousands in the dark
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
28/06/2010
Main power plant is closed in dispute between the two sides over who is supposed to pay to keep it running.
 
The continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the dark following the closure of the area’s main power plant.

The power plant, which supplies 25% of electricity to the Gaza Strip, was shut down on Friday night because of a dispute between the rival Palestinian parties over payment for fuel that is needed to keep it running.

Hamas and Fatah traded allegations over the power outage, with each party blaming the other for the crisis.

The Hamas government accused the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank of failing to deliver the fuel although it had received payment for the supply.

The PA, on the other hand, blamed Hamas for the electric outage and said that the Hamas government was not collecting money from consumers in the Gaza Strip.

The PA also said it has been covering up to 95% of the Gaza Strip’s total bill for electricity every month.

Kana’n Obaid, director of the power plant in the Gaza Strip, blamed the PA’s Finance Ministry for the crisis, claiming that it had reduced the fuel supply needed to keep the plant running.

He said that there were no direct contacts between Hamas and Fatah to solve the crisis. Instead, he added, he was talking to representatives of the European Union with the hope that they would intervene to solve the problem.

Obaid claimed that a payment of $2 million was sent to the PA government in Ramallah to cover the cost of fuel last week.

Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the PA government in the West Bank, accused Hamas of creating a crisis for “political considerations” and with the purpose of inciting against the PA.

He said that Hamas was also seeking to exploit the crisis to win sympathy.

Hamas’s Health Ministry warned that the lives of some 500 patients hospitalized in various hospitals were at risk because of the electric outage. It said that those who would die first are the ones in intensive care units and heart and kidney patients.

The Gaza City Municipality warned of an “environmental crisis” in the area because of the possibility that the sewage system would break down. It said that the sewage was already threatening to flood the power plant and other parts of the city.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Sunday cast blame on both sides for the blackouts.

“It is such a tragedy that, on top of all the other crises that we have in the Gaza Strip, we now have a crisis of electricity,” John Ging, director of UNRWA in Gaza, was quoted by AFP as saying.

“It's an unbearable situation here at the moment, and it needs to be solved very quickly. It’s a Palestinian problem, made by Palestinians, and causing Palestinian suffering. So let’s have a Palestinian solution,” he added.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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