Pales­tinian power strug­gle dis­rupts elec­tric­ity in Gaza

The Dallas Morning News - - WORLD - Hazem Balousha,

GAZA CITY — A 10-year block­ade and three wars have hard­ened the peo­ple of the Gaza Strip, but now they face a new chal­lenge: The ter­ri­tory’s lone power sta­tion is short of fuel.

The prob­lem means hours with­out elec­tric­ity for the 2 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in the coastal en­clave. And the sit­u­a­tion is about to get worse as sum­mer ap­proaches.

The so­lu­tion could be sim­ple: Pro­vide Gazans with fuel for their power plant. But a power strug­gle be­tween the West Bank’s Pales­tinian Author­ity and Ha­mas, the mil­i­tant rulers of the Gaza Strip, stands in the way.

Un­til now, the Pales­tinian Author­ity re­ceived fuel from Is­rael and sold it to the power sta­tion in Gaza, which is un­der Ha­mas’ author­ity. But fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties meant other coun­tries oc­ca­sion­ally had to step in to cover the cost. In Jan­uary, af­ter pub­lic un­rest over power cuts, Qatar and Turkey do­nated three months’ worth of fuel to Gaza.

But that ar­range­ment has ended, and the Pales­tinian Author­ity has said that as long as Ha­mas re­mains in charge in Gaza, it should be re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the elec­tric­ity bill — at the full cost.

The po­lit­i­cal fight­ing be­tween the Pales­tinian fac­tions has left Gazans to sur­vive with four to six hours of elec­tric­ity a day.

“I live on the sixth floor, and elec­tric­ity is im­por­tant for me not only inside my apart­ment but also out­side, to op­er­ate the el­e­va­tor,” said Maisa al-Masri, a 38-year-old res­i­dent of the strip. She is a mother of five and has se­vere back prob­lems.

Ha­mas has asked the Pales­tinian Author­ity to at least re­duce the taxes it charges for the fuel. But Pales­tinian Author­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas last week re­fused to cut the tax un­less Ha­mas re­lin­quishes power to the Pales­tinian Author­ity.

Mah­mud Hams/Agence France-Presse

A Pales­tinian woman helps her son study by can­dle­light at their makeshift home in the Khan Yu­nis refugee camp in the south­ern Gaza Strip.

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