UN envoy blames Palestinians, Israel for Gaza energy crisis

"Residents can no longer be held hostage by disagreements and closures."

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April 19, 2017 22:09
2 minute read.
No power in Gaza

Palestinians walk on a road during a power cut in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The United Nations on Wednesday blamed all parties for the escalating energy crisis in Gaza, as its power plant is expected to remain shut on Thursday for the fifth day in a row.

“I am following with great concern the tense situation in Gaza, where a new energy crisis is now unfolding,” said UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.

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He blamed the crisis on both Palestinian internal political divisions as well as Israeli restrictions on materials entering Gaza from the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

“I call on all parties, including the international community, to come together and ensure this vital issue of energy for Gaza is resolved once and for all,” he said.

Mladenov issued his statement just one day before he is set to update the UN Security Council in New York on the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

For the past decade, the Strip’s two million residents have subsisted on only half a day or less of power due to poor infrastructure and a lack of funds. This week that number dropped to between four and six hours a day after the Palestinian Authority imposed an onerous tax on the diesel fuel needed to run the plant.

The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) said it could not afford to pay the tax and closed the plant, a move that led to an exchange of barbs between Hamas and Fatah.

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Mladenov said that the GEDCO needed to bring its revenue collection and transparency in line with international standards. He also called on Hamas, which controls Gaza, to ensure that the revenue is transferred to the government in Ramallah.

That government should remove or reduce the tax on the fuel, he said.

“This reform, as well as the necessary investments in reducing electricity losses and upgrading the grid in Gaza, should be financed and supported by the international community, but it cannot do it alone,” Mladenov said.

“Israel also has a significant responsibility to assist by facilitating the entry of materials for repairs and maintenance of the grid and power plant.”

The plant is still waiting for necessary materials to fix damages to it during the 2014 Gaza war. Israel restricts certain “dual-use” items needed for the repair for fear that Hamas will divert them for military use.

“Egyptian power lines to Gaza also need to be repaired and upgraded,” Mladenov said.

“The social, economic and political consequences of this impending energy crisis should not be underestimated,” he said. “Palestinians in Gaza, who live in a protracted humanitarian crisis, can no longer be held hostage by disagreements, divisions and closures.”

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