Egypt will let more fuel into Gaza and increase the amount
of electricity it supplies to the Palestinian enclave, Palestinian and
Egyptian officials said on Tuesday, a move to ease a power crisis that
has embarrassed the ruling Hamas movement.
government said the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza would be
increased to 22 megawatts from an existing 17 megawatts already supplied
for free. In addition, emergency diesel would also be supplied.
increase comes in the framework of a quick attempt to relieve the
suffering of the Palestinian people," Hassan Younes, the Egyptian
minister responsible for electricity and power, said in a statement.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh confirmed that Gaza had agreed with Egypt to end the persistent energy crisis, according to Hamas affiliate Al-Resalah.
depends heavily on fuel smuggled in from Egypt to keep its lone power
station on line. But supplies were unexpectedly cut last week, forcing
Hamas, which runs the coastal territory largely cut off by Israel, to
impose lengthy blackouts.
Many locals have accused Hamas of
mismanaging the situation, relying too heavily on smuggled fuel, which
it taxes heavily, rather than seeking alternative sources of energy via
legal channels on which it could not impose levies.
enabled the Palestinian Authority (PA), which holds sway in the West
Bank and is often at loggerheads with Islamist Hamas, to intervene with
Egypt and broker a deal.
Gaza's energy supply is bad at the best
of times, with a rickety infrastructure system badly degraded during
fighting over the past five years between Israel and Hamas, which is
committed to destroying the Jewish state.
Omar Kittana, head of
the PA Energy Authority, told Reuters Egypt was ready to provide the
Gaza Strip with emergency diesel in the coming days and would also
increase the amount of electricity it supplied to the territory.
In future, regular diesel supplies would be trucked into Gaza via the Israeli border crossing at Kerem Shalom, he said.
wants to legalize the matter and end the smuggling of fuel because it
comes at the expense of the Egyptian people," he told Reuters, saying
that the smuggled diesel was subsidized by Cairo and was meant only for
use within Egypt.
Kittana said the plan was to increase Egyptian electricity flows to 62 megawatts within two to four months.
Hamas leaders are in Cairo and Taher Al-Nono, the Hamas Gaza spokesman,
said he was optimistic that a deal would be struck following further
There has been widespread anger across Gaza over the
recent blackouts, with electricity available just six hours a day
during one of the coldest weeks of the year. There has also been a
severe shortage of diesel for cars.
Hamas suspended imports of
fuel for the power plant from Israel last year and instead relied on
smuggled stock, and was totally unprepared for sudden halt to supplies
No explanation was given for the disruption, but some
newspaper commentators speculated that Egypt was looking to pressure
Hamas to support a drive to mend bridges with Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and back a Palestinian unity government. Abbas
is due to meet Hamas leaders in Cairo on Thursday.
starts to flow through Kerem Shalom, which borders Israel, Gaza and
Egypt, diesel will continue to arrive through the network of smuggling
tunnels that connect southern Gaza to Egypt, a Palestinian source told
Officials in Gaza said their old plant produces 80
megawatts at full capacity, while Israel feeds Gaza with 120 megawatts.
Kittana said there was a move to resolve longstanding problems by
building greater transmission capabilities at the border with Egypt and
boost capacity there to 300 megawatts.
"The project may take at
least 18 months to be ready and by its completion it will resolve the
Gaza power problem once for for all," he said, adding it would cost $50
million to complete.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report