'Real relief for Gaza energy crisis within 5 months'

Egypt envoy to Palestinian territories downplays tensions between Hamas, Cairo, says "our relations are strong."

Electricity lines 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Electricity lines 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Egyptian Ambassador to the Palestinian territories Yasser Othman said Wednesday that the Gaza Strip will be connected to Egypt's power grid within four to five months in a development that will alleviate an energy crisis that has plagued the Strip for the last three months.
Speaking with Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Sharq, Othman said that Egypt and Gaza would begin work on connecting their power grids within the next few weeks.
"This will lead to a real relief for the deepening crisis in the Gaza Strip," Othman said.
Othman explained that Gaza's fuel needs in order to close their energy deficit are equal to the needs of four small Egyptian provinces, "due to the higher standard of living in the Strip compared to some cities and provinces here."
The Egyptian envoy said Cairo had graciously agreed to provide fuel to Gaza after a diesel deficit in Egypt had been exacerbated by fuel smuggling to the Gaza Strip.
Underground smuggling tunnels served as the main portal through which Gaza had received fuel, and those fuel imports were taxed by the Hamas government.
The plan to end Gaza's power crisis is a two-phase program, Othman explained. The first phase requires Egypt to provide diesel to power Gaza's sole power plant, which Gazan authorities have shut down three times in the last few months due to the lack of fuel.
The second phase will connect Gaza to a regional power grid that includes eight Middle Eastern countries, Othman said. That phase, which the Islamic Development Bank in Jedda agreed to fund, will take 18 months to complete in full, according to the Egyptian envoy.
The energy crisis in Gaza, which has caused rolling blackouts at times lasting up to 18 hours a day, sparked rare political bickering between the authorities in Gaza and Cairo.
Hamas officials accused Egypt of “political extortion” due to the latter’s insistence on supplying fuel to the Gaza Strip through Israel.
Othman downplayed tensions, saying "perhaps there are some differences caused by different assessments on both sides."
Still, Othman said, relations between the two governments are "strong," and based on "not interfering in the internal affairs of either side."
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report