PA: Fatah-Hamas tension not behind Gaza power plant closure
Published Saturday 28/12/2013 (updated) 29/12/2013 21:59
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian Authority official on Saturday denied Israeli claims that lack of fuel in Gaza was due to tension between Fatah and Hamas.
Nathmi Muhanna, PA director of border crossings, said in a statement that neither financial or political disputes with Hamas were behind the fuel shortage in Gaza.
"It's all because Israel has shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing, and if they decide to open it tomorrow, fuel will be shipped into the Gaza Strip," Muhanna said.
He said Israel has stopped a shipment of fuel into the Gaza Strip through the crossing, and that for solely that reason Gaza's power plant is out of commission.
On Friday, Israeli security sources told the Israeli news site Ynet that Hamas was responsible for the plant's shutdown, saying the Islamist movement was unwilling to pay the PA for the fuel.
But Muhanna said that the fees for this shipment of fuel from Israel had already been paid for using funds donated by Qatar, as international media reported earlier in December.
Gaza's only power plant shut down Friday after running for a mere 12 days, as Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing and stopped shipping the already-purchased fuel. Electricity availability in Gaza then dropped from 12 hours each day to just six hours.
Israel closed the crossing following an upheaval of violence in the the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, during which a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli Civil Defense employee and Israeli forces killed a 3-year-old Palestinian girl in an airstrike attack.
Qatar donated $10 million for diesel fuel in response to a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip that came to a head during a December storm that brought record snow and rainfall to the region. Between 10,000 and 40,000 Gaza residents were displaced due to the storm.
Fuel shortages had caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.
A crippling seven-year-old Israeli economic blockade on Gaza, in addition to frequent closures of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the destruction of hundreds of smuggling tunnels, has effectively isolated Palestinians living in the coastal enclave from the outside world.