Gaza in dark after last power plant turned off

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

GAZA CITY: Gaza has been plunged into dark­ness after the last op­er­at­ing power plant in the coastal ter­ri­tory was turned off on Wed­nes­day due to a se­vere short­age of fuel

Of­fi­cials at the Ha­mas-run power cor­po­ra­tion said they had turned off the last op­er­at­ing tur­bine at the plant in south­ern Gaza city.

More than 2 mil­lion res­i­dents have been liv­ing un­der an Is­raeli and Egyp­tian siege for 10 years after the Is­lamist group Ha­mas took con­trol of the ter­ri­tory in 2007.

The siege, in­volv­ing re­stric­tions in the im­port of fuel and elec­tric­ity, and other ne­ces­si­ties has made it dif­fi­cult for hos­pi­tals, desalination and sew­er­age plants to op­er­ate, lead­ing to a short­age of drink­ing wa­ter.

Gaza’s in­fra­struc­ture is barely func­tion­ing due to a short­age of parts needed for re­pairs and the re­stric­tions on im­ports.

Dur­ing the last few months the crit­i­cal hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion has been ex­ac­er­bated by a power strug­gle be­tween Ha­mas and the Pales­tinian Author­ity (PA) – which nom­i­nally con­trol the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank.

PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, in con­junc­tion with the Is­raelis, has re­duced pay­ment for Gaza’s elec­tric­ity, limited exit per­mits for chron­i­cally ill Pales­tini­ans re­quir­ing med­i­cal treat­ment abroad, forced early re­tire­ment on 6 000 pub­lic ser­vants while re­duc­ing the salaries of oth­ers, and limited the sup­ply of baby for­mula and medicine to Gaza – in a des­per­ate at­tempt to pres­surise Ha­mas po­lit­i­cally.

As Gaza faced a black­out two weeks ago, Egypt, whose re­la­tion­ship with Ha­mas has re­cently im­proved, stepped in and sup­plied 4 mil­lion litres of fuel. How­ever, this was in­suf­fi­cient.

In a re­port “Gaza Ten Years Later”, re­leased two days ago by the UN, the agency warned that the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion had de­te­ri­o­rated even faster than was pre­dicted when it warned in 2012 that the coastal ter­ri­tory would be un­live­able by 2020. Life for the av­er­age Pales­tinian in Gaza is get­ting more and more wretched,” wrote Robert Piper, the UN Co-or­di­na­tor for Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid and De­vel­op­ment Ac­tiv­i­ties in the Oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian Ter­ri­tory.

“This year elec­tric­ity is the most vis­i­ble de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the liv­ing con­di­tions but it comes on top of a host of other chronic and acute prob­lems,” said Piper. “In my fort­nightly vis­its to Gaza I am con­stantly amazed at the re­silience of a peo­ple who man­age to get by de­spite such odds.”

PIC­TURE: AP

A fam­ily build a fire out­side their makeshift house dur­ing a power cut in a poor neigh­bour­hood in the town of Khan You­nis in south­ern Gaza.

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