Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly
June 23, 2010 - 12:00am

The crisis of electricity cutoff in the blockaded Gaza Strip, ruled by Islamic Hamas movement, has recently mounted, where hours of blackout increased due to a severe shortage of industrial fuels used to operate the sole power plant in the salient, Gaza officials said on Tuesday.

The mounting crisis would endanger the daily life of the 1.7 million people living in the impoverished territory that has been under a tight Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of the enclave by force in June 2007, said Suhail Skaik, director of Gaza Electricity Company.

"It is summer now in Gaza, and the heat is unbearable, where the power consumption has been increasing. Electricity goes off 12 hours per day all over Gaza, where people become obliged to use electric generators that cause noise and pollution," he said.

Skaik told Xinhua that the power shortage of electricity in the area has hit 45 percent, adding that if the ongoing crisis escalates, all life aspects and services would be badly affected.

"The main reason is that we received minimized amounts of fuel to operate Gaza power station," he added.

"The electricity company in Gaza is facing a real and serious difficulty in distributing power to the population with its current capabilities," said Skaik, adding "keeping the supply of industrial fuels with its current limited amounts warns of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis."

The increasing number of blackout hours in the Gaza Strip has negatively affected all fields and sectors of life as well as the daily services in the territory, where Gaza observers warned that the crisis is getting worse day after day and it would certainly face a status of life collapse in the near future.

The main power station in Gaza has basically four turbines operated by a special kind of industrial diesel imported from Israel to generate electricity with a power of 160 megawatts. Only two turbines are working, while the other two are damaged and need to be fixed.

Right after Gaza militants kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in southeast Gaza in June 2006, Israel destroyed the power station. Later, two turbines were fixed and the other two are still damaged.

Skaik said that due to the shortage of fuel, "one turbine only works with a power of 30 megawatts."

The Gaza Strip depends also on two other sources of electricity. The first source is Israeli electricity, which covers areas close to the borders between Gaza and Israel, and the other source is Egypt.

Both Egypt and Israel provide Gaza with 140 megawatts, according to Skaik.

"In order to supply the Gaza Strip with electricity round the clock without any blackouts, the area would be in need of 300 megawatts power, 160 from Gaza power plant and 140 from both Israel and Egypt," said Skaik, adding that "one turbine only works by the limited amounts of diesel that we receive."

The Hamas authorities accused the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank of demanding the European Union not to directly pay for the industrial fuel to operate Gaza power station.

PNA asked the EU to send the funds directly to its budget and it will pay for the fuels, according to Hamas.

"The crisis now is not only related to the tight Israeli siege, where the amount of fuels has been minimized, but also a problem of funding the proper amount of fuels by the PNA," said Skaik.

He warned that if the crisis goes on, the number of blackout hours would rise up to 16 hours per day "due to the increase of the population consumption of electricity during the summer."

He referred to several initiatives to use the Egyptian natural gas to operate the power station instead of the Israeli diesel.

"So far, we haven't received any positive answer from anybody over solving the crisis of electricity in the Gaza Strip. I believe that we need at least six months more in order to replace the Israeli industrial diesel with the Egyptian natural gas," said Skaik.

However, Walid Sayel, executive director of the Palestinian Electricity Company, called on the feuding movements of Fatah and Hamas to put their differences aside and try to find a real and a forever solution to the crisis.

"If the two groups can reconcile, I believe all our problems will be over," he said.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017