Gaza in the dark "paying” for power struggle between Hamas and Fatah
The energy crisis is worsening after shutdown of only power station in the Strip. Fuel donated by Turkey and Qatar has run out. Palestinians in Gaza also struggling because of the cuts decided by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The Gaza and Ramallah authorities blame each other. The UN warns of 'uninhabitable' by 2020
Gaza (AsiaNews) - The Gaza Strip is likely to remain "in the dark" as the gap between authorities in Gaza and Ramallah, Hamas and Fatah, deepens. Meanwhile, residents in the Strip are living in increasingly difficult conditions due to the lack of electricity and the recent salary cuts implemented by Fatah.
On April 19th, the UN envoy for the peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed deep concern over the tense situation, calling for the two Palestinian authorities to deal with the electrical problem.
The energy situation in Gaza worsened when, on April 16, the only power station in the Strip ceased operations because it was left without fuel. The latest stockpiles, donated by Turkey and Qatar, have run out, and Gaza claims that they cannot afford to buy more because of taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah.
On April 17, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company claimed that the power plant could only provide one-third of the electricity it would need: 133 megawatts per day, compared to the 450 and 500 needed. Israel provides 120 megawatts and Egypt only 13, after disconnecting one of the power lines on April 18th last.
The energy situation in the Strip is a cause of continued tensions between Fatah, the leader of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the authority in the Strip.
The Gaza Energy Authority had warned at the beginning of the month that the power plant would stop working. Creating further tensions was the PA announcement at the beginning of the month of the reduction of about 30% of the salaries of Gaza citizens.
Residents in the strip have told Middle East Eye, however, the cuts were far greater than 30%: " I took a loan last year to help my son in his marriage. After cutting 42 percent of my salary, and paying electricity bills and loan payments, I found nothing in my bank account,"said Moshtaha Mosallem, a 48-year-old health worker in Gaza.
Wage cuts have been justified by the UN envoy Yousif al-Mahmoud's spokesman with the reduction of EU aid. A justification that was not well accepted by Gaza, where several manifestations have poured into the streets.
The result is that Hamas and Anp blame each other for the crisis. Anp says, using the same words as Gaza's revolt, that Hamas is responsible for "creating a new crisis in the Strip."
Abdullah Abdullah, a member of Fatah's revolutionary council, commented: "Taxes have been suspended for many months, but Gaza leaders are holding the money without buying fuel [...] Anp, on the other hand, is paying for electric resources - Coming from Egypt and Israel. "
Taxes are paid by all the inhabitants of the Strip, as the envoy Onu Mladenov says: "Everyone in Gaza must share the weight of the bills. It is the poorest Palestinians to pay the price of the exceptions and privileges they enjoy. "
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Gaza parish priest, Fr. Mario da Silva, said: "The situation is difficult, but there has always been little electricity. We usually have eight hour shifts, but recently I've been down to four, six hours. Four hours of electricity every 12 months. This creates many problems, without counting wage cuts ... people are unhappy: they have no money, there is less electricity, no water, no work. "
The Church is trying to help families for what is possible: "We gave 15 families in the parish panels for solar energy, to have electricity to use for basic things. We do these things to help our people. We hope to be able to give inverter batteries for 30 families. "
The energy problem has serious repercussions on Al Shifa Hospital, the main one in the Strip, particularly for kidney dialysis patients. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra said the crisis forced the Ministry to reduce services in hospitals without specifying which ones.
For the UN, Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020. Robert Piper, UN coordinator for occupied Palestinian Territories, argues that the relationship between Gaza City and Ramallah needs to be resolved in order to solve the problems: "Electricity is a key sector" Which involves many sectors, from healthcare to business. "The commercial sector, already very vulnerable, is devastated by four hours of electricity per day."
A Fatah delegation is expected in Gaza this month to discuss the reunification of the two authorities. However, Hamas leader Hammad al-Ruqab on April 17 rejected the prospect of bilateral talks that "would only cement the siege on the Gaza Strip".