Gov't won't increase electricity to Gaza

Vice premier Shalom refuses Blair's request to increase output.

Blair 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Blair 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel has balked at a request to boost the amount of electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip on the grounds that it does not want to cooperate with the Hamas government there.
Quartet representative Tony Blair made the request on Monday at a meeting with Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, Blair’s spokesman confirmed to The Media Line.
RELATED:Gaza electrical station stops operatingAnalysis: Is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza?
“Mr. Blair did raise this issue and asked for an increase to the electricity output to Gaza,” the spokesman said.
“Mr. Blair raised the issue at the request of the Palestinian Energy Authority in the Palestinian Authority. Our discussions are ongoing.”
Since the beginning of the year, Gaza has been experiencing power cuts – sometimes lasting for eight to 10 hours – due to a shortage of industrial fuel to power the turbines at the only electricity power plant in the Gaza Strip, located near the Nuseirat refugee camp. Israel supplies Gaza with about 60 percent of its electricity.
Blair’s appeal encountered a cold refusal from Shalom, who is also the minister for regional development.
“I expect the international community to pressure Hamas into accepting the Quartet’s conditions,” Shalom said in a press release published by his office following the meeting. “I regard Hamas as responsible for the suffering of residents in the Gaza Strip.
Israel cannot afford to cooperate with a terror organization that wishes to annihilate it.”
Shalom’s spokeswoman Lee Gat said the statement should not have been understood as an outright refusal of the PA request, but rather as Shalom’s general approach regarding cooperation with Hamas.
Israel supplies Gaza with 120 megawatts of electricity through 10 power lines.
Hala Zibda of the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority in Gaza said that the request for additional electricity was sent from the office of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah, since no direct contact existed between the Israeli government and Hamas.
“In 2005, Israel signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority to provide electricity to Gaza through a new power line, No. 161. The Palestinian Authority even paid part of the sum for its construction, but the Israelis never implemented the agreement,” Zibda said.
In June, Blair held a joint press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu following an Israeli government decision to loosen the ban on materials entering the Gaza Strip. “Over these coming months we need to improve life in Gaza,” Blair said at that event.
Meanwhile, arrangements have been made to keep the electricity flowing after the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company finally paid its bill for diesel fuel to the PA. The money for the bill was raised by a cut in the salaries of PA civil servants.
Fayyad announced on Tuesday the transfer of 320,000 liters of diesel fuel a day into Gaza for a period of five days.
The breakthrough in Gaza’s prolonged energy crisis was made possible after the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company paid $2 million to the account of the Energy Authority in Ramallah.
According to the Palestinian NGO network, 600,000 liters of industrial diesel entered Gaza on Wednesday, meant to fuel two of Gaza’s four power turbines.
“Tonight at five o’clock Gaza will be illuminated!” said Amjad al-Shawwa, head of the Palestinian NGO Network.
Shawwa added that 600,000 more liters were scheduled to enter Gaza on Thursday, covering Gaza’s energy demand over the weekend when border crossings with Israel were closed.
“The Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority also agreed to pressure Israel into completing the construction of power line 161, which would add between 30 and 50 megawatts to Gaza’s power grid,” Shawwa said. “This, together with importing natural gas, would mean developments on the strategic level.”
Shawwa said the PA had paid Israel NIS 7m. for power line 161 in 2005, but it was never built due to Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and Israel’s policy not to strengthen the rule of Hamas.