GAZA (Ma’an) – Gaza’s power authority on Friday has temporarily cut off electricity to all districts of the besieged Gaza Strip in protest of “unfair measures” imposed on the coastal enclave, as Hamas and the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority (PA) have continued to blame each other for a deepening crisis in the small Palestinian territory.
The authority said in a statement earlier on Friday that the decision was in response to “popular events” that have been organized lately to protest recent measures imposed on Gaza, notably the drastic cut of salaries of PA employees in the besieged territory and renewed conflict over the taxes on electricity levied on Gaza amid a deepening electricity crisis.
Electricity will be cut off completely in Gaza from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday, the statement said.
The PA responded to the decision, holding Hamas responsible for the statement released by Gaza’s power authority, adding that it was “part of Hamas’ attempt at creating a new crisis in the Gaza Strip.”
PA spokesperson Youssef al-Mahmoud said that the PA was committed to covering the costs of Gaza’s electricity originating from Israel and Egypt. The PA has paid 40 million shekels ($10,931,732) a month for Israeli electricity and seven million shekels ($1,913,053) for Egyptian, he said.
Al-Mahmoud added that if the power authority carries out the electricity cuts, then “it must be ordered by Hamas who controls the electricity company and power authority.”
Al-Mahmoud noted that over the last three months the power authority was supplied with Qatari-funded fuel -- the last shipment of which arrived in Gaza on Friday and is expected to completely run out by Sunday. The “Hamas’ electricity company” has collected 100 million shekels ($27,329,329) worth of electricity fees from residents of Gaza while not paying anything to receive the electricity.
The Gaza power authority warned on Thursday that Gaza’s sole power plant would stop operating on Sunday, when the Qatari-funded fuel is expected to run out.
The authority added that the primary reason for the potential shutdown was the PA decision to continue imposing taxes on fuel. If taxes were abolished, the authority would be capable of buying fuel from the PA to guarantee that the electricity plant keep operating, the statement said.
In a statement at the start of January, the authority noted that the taxes on fuel were “the biggest obstacle” preventing the electricity station in Gaza to run at full capacity, saying that the added costs prohibits the authority from purchasing sufficient quantities of fuel.
It added that 78 liters of fuel had entered the Gaza Strip in 2016 for the power plant, which had cost 259 million shekels ($70,885,000), of which 125 million shekels ($34,211,000) were taxes.
On Sunday, Gaza power authority director Fathi Sheikh Khalil warned of an “imminent aggravation” of the existing electricity crisis in the besieged coastal enclave, as the authority announced that it would soon run out of internationally funded fuel supplies and could not afford to buy the fuel itself.
Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza's power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs. The power plant has not run at full capacity in years, while Israel's crippling blockade has severely limited fuel imports into the coastal enclave.