Israel has reduced electricity in the Gaza Strip to three hours a day after the Palestinian Authority said it would not foot all of the bill.For the last few months the PA has cut electricity to the Gaza, as it seeks to regain control of the area, a decade after Hamas ousted Fatah from the Strip in a bloody coup.Israel supplies 125 MW of electricity to Gaza’s 2 million residents, but the PA pays the monthly bill of NIS 40 million.Initially the PA told Israel it would halt its electricity payments all together. This week it told Israel it would only pay NIS 25m. to NIS 30m. a month.PA payments determine the amount of electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, said Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, during an Arabic BBC Radio interview.
“This is an internal Palestinian issue and not an Israeli-Palestinian issue,” Mordechai said.Until now, it had been unclear what Israel’s policy would be with regard Gaza electricity supply.Gaza needs 450 to 500 MW to meet the population’s daily demand for electricity, but it only has infrastructure to deliver half that supply, leaving Palestinians in Gaza with only 12 hours of power a day.Egypt provides Gaza with close to 30 MW of electricity, but its supply lines are often down.Gaza’s sole power plant, which had provided about up to 120 MWs, shut down in April, unable to meet the heavy taxes and fees the PA imposed on the diesel fuel needed to run it.Since then people in Gaza have lived on six to four hours of electricity a day, relying on Israel as its sole supplier of energy.Mordechai explained that an agreement exists between the PA and Israel, by which the Israeli Electric Corporation could provide 225 MW of power to Gaza, almost half of its daily needs. But that the PA has not provided the financial assistance necessary to put that agreement into place.Instead it has reduced its payments, so that Palestinians in Gaza will now only receive 75 MW of electricity, essentially enough for three hours a day of power.Already last week, the United Nations warned that the chronic electricity crisis “has become acute.”Robert Piper, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities, said the absence of electricity had harmed other vital utilities and services such as safe drinking water, sewage treatment and hospitals.“No household in Gaza is untouched, but the situation of patients on dialysis, disabled persons living in apartment buildings without reliable elevators or water supply and the elderly is especially precarious,” Piper said.“The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel “all have obligations for the welfare of Gaza’s residents and must live up to their responsibilities,” Piper said.“I urge all parties to come together to reverse the current trajectory towards another major humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he added.
Qatar donated $12 million of fuel to offset Gaza power shortage (credit: REUTERS)