Egypt to help with Gaza power shortages (AP) Associated Press) By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH RAMALLAH 02/20/12 12:01 pm ET)
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RAMALLAH, West Bank – Egypt has agreed to help ease Gaza´s chronic
power shortages as part of a three-stage plan that would eventually
hook up the isolated territory to the regional grid, a Palestinian
energy official said Monday.
Such a deal would represent a major leap in Cairo´s involvement in
Hamas-ruled Gaza, and another step away from Egyptian cooperation
with the Israeli blockade imposed after the militant group´s 2007
Gaza has suffered frequent blackouts and fuel shortages since the
blockade was imposed. Rolling power cuts intensified last week when
Gaza´s only power plant shut down because of a growing shortage in
black market fuel reaching the territory through underground tunnels.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had sided with Israel in
enforcing the Gaza blockade, trying to isolate the Islamists on his
doorstep. However, since taking over last year, Egypt´s new rulers
have eased Gaza´s isolation.
The Gaza energy deal, outlined by Palestinian officials on Monday,
was struck between Egypt and the West Bank-based Palestinian
Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, a longtime Hamas rival. An
Egyptian intelligence official said Hamas was also involved in the
The Egyptian official confirmed plans to gradually increase the Gaza
power supply, both by sending more power from Egypt and by repairing
the power plant, and to hook up Gaza to the regional grid.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to
The deal appears to have been made possible, in part, by progress in
reconciliation efforts between Abbas and Gaza´s rulers. Former bitter
foes Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, Hamas´ top leader in exile, signed a
Qatar-brokered deal in Doha on Feb. 6. Abbas is to head an interim
unity government that replaces rival administrations in the West Bank
and Gaza and leads the Palestinians to general elections.
Omar Kittaneh, head of the Palestinian Energy Authority, said Egypt
proposed a three-stage plan for the power shortages, to be funded by
the Islamic Development Bank.
In the first stage, Egypt would increase its electricity flow to Gaza
by three to five megawatts in coming days.
In all, Gaza´s 1.7 million people need about 360 megawatts per day.
Of that, Egypt supplied about 17 megawatts, Israel provided 120
megawatts against payment while the local power plant produced about
70 megawatts, Kittaneh said.
In coming weeks, engineers will set up a new transmitter and try to
restore the Gaza power plant — hit in an Israeli air strike in 2006 —
to full services, Kittaneh said. The repairs and the new transmitter
should increase electricity output by at least another 140 megawatt,
In the final stage, Gaza would be linked to the regional grid that
includes Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon.
Kittaneh said Egypt proposed the plan which was approved by Abbas and
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Kittaneh said he then met in
Cairo with Egyptian officials to work out the details.
The Egyptian official said the energy deal is part of a wider
Egyptian effort to cut down on smuggling to Gaza. Most of Gaza´s fuel
came through the tunnels, along with cement and other items Israel
still won´t allow to pass through its crossings.
In recent weeks, black market fuel being shipped to Gaza through
Egypt´s Sinai Peninsula largely dried up, prompting the current
energy crisis in Gaza.
"Egyptian officials said we should put an end to this problem and
legalize the process and not leave it to the black market and
smuggling," Kittaneh said Monday. "I think the atmosphere of
reconciliation made this possible."
In a related development, about 300,000 liters of black market fuel
reached Gaza on Monday and are to be used to restart one of the power
plant´s three turbines, said the head of the station, Kaanan Obeid.
It was not immediately clear if the renewed shipment was a stop-gap
measure, until the two sides can work out an above-ground fuel
Meanwhile, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, headed
to Egypt on Monday for talks on energy supplies. ___ Associated Press
writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City contributed reporting. (© 2012 The
Associated Press 02/20/12)
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