Hamas appealed to Ramallah on Monday to lift an onerous fuel tax which it said would force the Gaza power plant to shut down on Tuesday for the third day in a row.Lack of funds has left the Strip’s two million residents with only four to six hours of electricity per day, according to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company.“We were surprised by the decision of the government [in Ramallah] to fully reimpose the taxes on the price of fuel used for operating the power plant,” the Gaza Energy Authority said on its web page.
The authority added that it “appealed” to Ramallah to waive the taxes. It further charged that Ramallah had delayed projects that would help resolve the electricity problem in Gaza.A similar electricity crisis in December was resolved by tax-free donations from Qatar and Turkey that ran out last week. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is no longer willing to allow the plant to operate on taxfree fuel.A Gaza Electricity Distribution Company spokesman said it costs NIS 2 million daily to run the plant at half capacity and NIS 4m.daily at full capacity. Maher al-Tabbaa of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce said that half that sum goes to pay taxes.The power plant shutdown further deepens the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Reduction in electricity compromises the operation of the desalinization plants that provide clean drinking water and make it difficult for hospitals to provide life-saving medical services.Tabbaa said that factories will be forced to shut down, because the owners cannot afford to run generators to supply electricity.“The continuing stoppage of the Gaza power plant for 20 hours a day foreshadows a real catastrophe that might affect the basic food security of the people as well as the health and education sectors,” Tabbah said.“The insufficient supply of electricity and fuel to operate water pumps and wells has caused a further reduction in the availability of running water in most households,” he added.Demand for power in Gaza is about 450 to 500 megawatts of power per day, but it often gets less than half of that, leaving Gaza residents with only eight hours a day of electricity.About 27 MW of power are imported from Egypt and 125MW from Israel. The plant can generate 110 MW when operating at full capacity. Israel runs 10 electrical lines into Gaza and coordinates the amount of fuel entering the Strip based largely on the amount requested by the Palestinian Authority.According to the Ma’an News Agency, PA spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud has said that the PA spent NIS 40m. a month for Israeli electricity and NIS 7m. for electricity from Egypt. He said that Hamas had collected NIS 100m. in fees that could be used to pay for the fuel.The PA-imposed taxes on diesel fuel have only increased the acrimony between Fatah and Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since it ousted Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007.It follows a PA decision to cut salaries of Gaza civil servants, while leaving the salaries of West Bank government employees intact.A Fatah-led delegation is expected to travel to Gaza later this month to discuss reunification efforts.
Qatar donated $12 million of fuel to offset Gaza power shortage (credit: REUTERS)