A vendor sells snacks on a beach during a power cut in Gaza City in summer of 2017.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority said it is ready to resume its normal payments for electricity delivered to the Gaza Strip, PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said.
In June, the PA stopped paying for approximately 50 megawatts of electricity that Israel typically sends into Gaza, as a part of an effort to pressure Hamas to give up control of the Strip. Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the PA from the territory in 2007.
“On the basis of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s orders, the [Civil Affairs] Ministry asked Israeli authorities to restore 50 megawatts” of power to Gaza, Sheikh said in a statement published on the official PA news site Wafa on Wednesday.
In mid-October, the PA’s dominant party, Fatah, and Hamas signed an agreement to advance reconciliation and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza. However, the rival parties have struggled to implement the agreement, arguing over its details.
Abbas, who also serves Fatah chairman, had said that he would not renew payments for electricity or roll back a number of other sanctions he levied on Gaza until the PA had been fully enabled to operate in the territory.
Nonetheless, the decision to restore payments for electricity appears to show that he has rescinded one of his sanctions without that happening.
Abbas’s other sanctions on Gaza include slashing Gazan PA employees’ salaries as well as forcing thousands of them into early retirement.
Israeli authorities did not immediately say if they had accepted the PA’s request to restore 50 megawatts of power.
Speaking about the decision to ask Israel to restore power to Gaza, PA Prime Rami Hamdallah said, “We affirm that we will not hesitate in continuing to undertake our national responsibilities for our people in Gaza.”
Before the PA slashed its payments for power sent to Gaza in June, it funded approximately 125 megawatts of electricity delivered to the Strip.
Gaza suffers from severely inadequate electricity infrastructure that can only provide for approximately half of the territory’s needs.
Gaza Electric Distribution Company spokesman Muhammed Thabet welcomed the news that the PA wants to restore its payments, but said that his company had not received information from authorities about it.
Thabet estimated that if Gaza receives an additional 50 megawatts of power, the Strip would see an additional two hours of electricity daily.
Over the past six months, Gazans have had access to less than four hours of power on many days.