Electricity crisis expected in Gaza as Qatar-donated fuel runs dry
Published Sunday 09/03/2014 (updated) 17/03/2014 09:41
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The last shipment of Qatar-donated diesel -- used to fuel the Gaza Strip's sole power plant -- is expected to run out within four or five days, a Palestinian official said Sunday.
The announcement comes after only around two months of steady electricity in the besieged coastal enclave, which suffers from a severe lack of fuel due to a seven-year-long economic blockade enforced jointly by Israel and Egypt.
Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy chairperson of the Gaza power authority, told Ma'an Sunday that the Qatari donation had helped operate two generators and made electricity available on the basis of eight hours on, eight hours off.
As the last of the fuel runs out, power availability will be reduced to six hours on, twelve hours off, as before the fuel was donated, Khalil said.
"We asked the Ramallah government to provide Gaza's power plant with tax-free fuel because the money we collect in electricity bills isn't enough to buy fuel to run two generators," he said.
Khalil added that the chairman of the power authority in Ramallah, Omar Kittana, "has been trying to convince the minister of finance to sell Gaza tax-free fuel for a year or half a year."
Qatar donated $10 million to Hamas authorities in Gaza for fuel in the wake of the humanitarian crisis caused by severe weather in the region in December.
But even before winter storm Alexa, Gaza had experienced extreme fuel shortages that cut off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents since early November.
The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. Although enforcement from the Egyptian side eased following the 2011 revolution, since the July ouster of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi military authorities have tightened control.
The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.