A project to pipe natural gas from Israel to Gaza to double the supply of electricity to the Hamas-led Palestinian enclave is progressing, Qatari envoy to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi said on Sunday.
At present Gaza residents live on about 11 hours of electricity a day, up from the four to six hours of electricity they received a few years ago.
“The project will help increase electric power to 400 megawatts, which is twice the current amount,” Emadi told the Palestinian news agency Sama News.
“This will help solve the electricity problem in the Gaza Strip,” he said adding that the project will take over two years to complete.
At present the power plant is operating on diesel fuel which is costly, so the transfer to natural gas would reduce costs.
He explained that a series of successful meetings had been held on the matter with the Quartet, the UN Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, the EU, and the consulates of France and the Netherlands.
Phone conversations had also been conducted with Zafer Melhem, President of the Palestinian Energy Authority, Emadi added.
The pipeline project has two sections, one in Gaza and the other on the Israeli side to pipe the gas into Gaza.
There are two contracts for the gas pipeline project, the first for the purchase of gas, which is between the Palestinian Authority and Delek Company, and the other for installing gas pipelines, Emadi said.
It was agreed with the Europeans, who allocated $5 million, to install gas pipelines from the Gaza border to the power plant, while Qatar will handle the installation of the pipes on the Israeli side, he explained.
A working team has been formed from the employees of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority to complete the gas pipeline project contracts within six months.
The Office of the EU Representative in Jerusalem said the gas pipeline deal with the PA had not yet been signed.
“The EU has been discussing a project that will provide the required infrastructure on the Palestinian side to deliver gas to the Gaza power plant with the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, and Israel.
“The technical teams are still working on the details of this project to which the EU will provide an initial contribution of five million euros if certain conditions are met,” the EU office added.
The Chevron company which is part of the project said it was pleased to work with “the State of Israel and other regional partners.”
“We look forward to supporting Israel’s strategy to develop its energy resources for the benefit of the country and the region,” Chevron said, adding that “it is Chevron’s policy to not comment on matters of a commercial nature.”
The families of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Shaul Oron, believed killed in the 2014 war and whose remains are presumed to be held in Gaza, have urged Israel not to allow any assistance to Gaza such as the pipeline to move forward without the release
of their sons. They have similarly called for the release of the two Israeli citizens held captive in Gaza, Hisham Al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu
The Goldin family called on Israel Sunday not to move forward on the gas deals until the “boys” had been returned. This government is “leaving the IDF fighters in the hands of Israel’s worst enemies.”
“This is a government that does not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” the family said.