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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gaza blackouts intensify - so they blame Israel

From Egypt Independent:
The Gaza Strip’s sole electricity station has become inoperative because Egypt has begun to crack down on fuel smuggling activities through their shared border, a Palestinian energy official in Gaza said Tuesday.

Gaza Energy Authority official Ahmed Abul Amreen said in a press conference that the authority cannot meet electricity demands for hospitals, educational facilities, and water and sewage stations. He said the amount of electricity Gaza receives from an Israeli company fulfills only 35 percent of the population’s needs.

Palestinian news agency Maan quoted Abul Amreen as saying that the power plant’s inactivity has brought the strip's primary electricity source to a halt, noting that Gaza already suffers a great shortage in wattage supplies.

The official held Israel responsible for the crisis. He also called upon the Egyptian Parliament to back Palestinians and continue to support them with the necessary fuel supplies.

For nearly two weeks, Gaza has been undergoing a worsening fuel crisis caused by a halt in supplies smuggled through underground tunnels traversing its border with Egypt. The conundrum has rendered 90 percent of local oil stations idle.

Israel supplies Gaza with about 120 megawatts of electricity a day, while the strip’s only power plant produces 60 megawatts. But since Gaza needs at least 270 megawatts, the strip suffers daily blackouts that can last for eight hours.
Ma'an adds:
While limited amounts of gas, mainly used by individual households, are purchased from Israeli suppliers and permitted to enter the besieged strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, most of Gaza's energy is brought unofficially from Egypt using underground tunnels.

Egyptian supplies are cheaper than the Israeli companies, which themselves purchase gas from Egypt, a Ma'an correspondent said.

But with Egypt beset by continuing domestic unrest after throwing out Hosni Mubarak a year ago, agreement has yet to be reached on stable fuel deliveries to Gaza, he added.

Here is what the latest weekly COGAT report, on goods that transverse the crossings, has to say:

Israel is providing exactly the same amount of electricity to Gaza it always has. As we see above, "Palestinians"  instructed the Israelis not to provide the Strip with heavy-duty diesel because they could get the fuel - reportedly cheaper - from Egypt.

But as far as I can tell, not a single official - from the PA, the electric utility or from Hamas - has explicitly called for Gaza to resume purchasing fuel from Israel to alleviate this crisis, something that COGAT seems more than willing to facilitate.

Assuming that the money for the fuel could be found, the question that must be asked is - why no calls to buy fuel from Israeli suppliers?  Why are people's lives being put at risk unnecessarily? Why are we seeing headlines about a energy crisis in Gaza when the solution is so simple?

I asked the IDF asking them who made the decision not to accept Israeli fuel, Hamas or the PA? Here is what they answered:
The decision to buy heavy-duty diesel from Egypt and not Israel was made by Hamas. Over the last year, the government in Gaza has gradually stopped buying diesel from Israel and increased its purchases from Egypt. This is also the source of the recent power problems in the Strip, including the local power plant shutting down.

There is no Israeli decision to purposefully stop selling diesel to Gaza; the decision came from the Hamas, and again, the situation isn't black and white--if you look at previous reports from the last months, there are still small amounts of diesel entering Gaza from Israel. If and when the demand returns, Israel is fully willing to supply, as it did in the past.
Is Hamas' refusal to buy the needed fuel from Israel a matter of principle, pride - or propaganda?