GAZA Feb 14 The Gaza Strip's only power
station, which supplies the Palestinian enclave with up to
two-thirds of its energy needs, was shut down on Tuesday because
of a shortage of fuel smuggled in from neighbouring Egypt.
The closure led to widespread blackouts for Gaza's 1.7
million inhabitants. The local power company warned that
households would receive only six hours of electricity a day
until the problem was resolved.
Gaza's Energy Authority, which is run by the Islamist Hamas
group, said "measures taken" on the Egyptian side of the border
meant not enough fuel was entering the territory.
It did not provide further details. Some local experts said
Hamas had mismanaged Gaza's power needs by failing to provide a
viable alternative to the precarious smuggling routes.
The Gaza power plant needs 600,000 litres of fuel a day to
keep running, but the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
said only 340,000 litres had arrived from Egypt since Friday,
with no reserve stocks left in Gaza to cover the shortfall.
"We are sorry to announce that we are unable to provide
hospitals, education premises, water pumps and waste water
facilities and all other fields of life with the enough
quantities of electricity," said Abu Al-Amrain, information
director at the Energy Authority.
He urged Egypt to allow more fuel into Gaza, but did not
explain what had caused the sudden drop in the flows.
Locals said in normal circumstances a fleet of trucks
arrived at the Egyptian side of the border and pumped fuel
through pipes in the smuggling tunnel that led into Gaza.
Israel provides the Mediterranean territory with at least 35
percent of its energy needs, but closed off its own fuel
pipeline into the enclave in January 2010.
Abu Al-Amrain said Israel bore overall responsibility for
the ongoing crisis, but Mustafa Ibrahim, a human rights
researcher and writer, said Hamas's administration had failed to
provide the territory with an energy safety net.
"(The Energy Authority) made everything depend on fuel
smuggled through the tunnels, without having any guarantees that
this flow could continue. The current severe crisis is evidence
that this was the wrong approach," he said.
The sound of generators roared in Gazan streets as
businesses tried to keep the lights on, but the PCHR warned that
the power cuts could have serious consequences.
"The current crisis may impact access ... to vital services,
including the supply of drinking water," it said in a statement.
Gaza's precarious energy supply is bad at the best of times,
with a rickety infrastructure system badly degraded during
fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past five years.
Israel maintains a blockade by land, air and sea on Gaza to
prevent weapons and material with potential military use from
reaching Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish
(Editing by Crispian Balmer)