Tulkarem electricity crisis leads to clash between PA and local municipality

Residents are taking to the street in protests, calling on Israeli and Palestinian authorities to take immediate action to restore electricity to the northern West Bank city.

August 3, 2016 17:53
2 minute read.
Electric poles

Electric poles. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Much of Tulkarm has gone without electricity for the last three days, provoking anger, frustration and confusion.

Residents have taken to the street in protest and called on Israeli and Palestinian authorities to take immediate actions to restore electricity to the northern West Bank city.

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Meanwhile, younger residents clashed with Palestinian Authority security forces, as Fatah members began staging a protest in Gamal Abdel Nasser Square.

One resident, who asked to remain unidentified, told The Jerusalem Post by telephone, “We need electricity to be restored. The current situation is unbearable, and many cannot operate their businesses and others are suffering in the intense heat.”

The crisis is not the first, and many residents do not expect it to be the last. The supply of power to Tulkarm has been compared to that of the Gaza Strip. Shop owners and families there have purchased generators to deal with electrical interruptions.

The unidentified source told the Post that backup generators are becoming the norm.

“They’re no longer considered backup generators, they’re permanent,” he said.

The ongoing reduction of electricity to Tulkarm started on Monday, when the Israel Electric Corporation took the action in response to more than NIS 208 million in unpaid debt.

The municipality initially turned to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to help resolve the issue with the IEC. Tulkarm Mayor Iyad Jalad told reporters, “We call on the President Abbas, may God preserve him, to intervene immediately to put an end to this situation.”

However, later on Monday the PA told Jalad that the Palestinian government holds the municipality fully responsible for payment of all of its electricity debts.

That infuriated Jalad and other Tulkarm residents, 400 of whom marched in the streets on Tuesday morning in protest. Jalad and the marchers condemned PA inaction and accused the authority of complicity with Israel.

The PA quickly responded to Jalad’s remarks. Publishing a statement on Wafa, the official PA news site, it accused municipal leaders of being fiscally irresponsible.

“Reports indicate that there are clear financial and administrative excesses in the municipality, which require hiring an auditor to prevent wasteful spending of public funds.”

The PA Ministry of Local Governance has insisted for several weeks that an auditor be hired, according to the website, but said Jalad has consistently rejected its proposal.

“The municipality’s debt in the electricity sector, which has reached millions of shekels, is the responsibility of its officials and is preventing a solution for the electricity crisis from being found,” the statement added.

The municipality has not yet responded to these recent remarks.

The IEC has cut power to indebted Palestinian cities in the past, then renegotiated debt through the PA. The IEC did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

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